PSG took the French crown in unconvincing circumstances with question marks over the future of star man Mbappe and other underperforming squad members
Paris Saint-Germain’s record-equalling 10th league title should have been the cause of much jubilation in Parc des Princes but instead it was simply reason for much soul searching.
The 16-point advantage that PSG boast over second-placed Marseille does not reflect their struggles in many matches this season, and it was in some ways fitting that the already flat party was dampened further by a late Lens equalizer, with the in-form visitors escaping with a 1-1 draw on the night.
PSG’s ultras, meanwhile, chose to celebrate the success outside the capital’s famous old ground, still in dispute with the club over the manner of their latest Champions League exit to Real Madrid, which has cast such a cloud over the Ligue 1 side for the last month.
The fans in the ground exited come full-time with little celebration or fuss, with a pocket of Lens supporters, who were meant to be banned from traveling, the group making the noise.
Such has been the strange nature of PSG’s season and the uncertainty over what lies ahead for the club. This title feels like a crossroads in the history of Les Parisiens, with perhaps the most important summer ever in the foreign history looming.
The Galactico project of a year ago has quite obviously failed. Lionel Messi’s difficulties might have been overplayed, but he has not produced the magic expected of him, instead offering a tantalizing glimpse of his very best form with a stunning opening goal against Lens. It was just his fourth of the season in the league.
Sergio Ramos, meanwhile, has barely played, Achraf Hakimi has lost momentum after a bright start and the less said about Georginio Wijnaldum the better.
Quite where PSG turn next is dependent on the future of their Qatari owners.
There have been rumors that they are getting ready to wind down their participation at the club once the World Cup is over in December. They have moved to strenuously deny these claims. There will be clues in their intentions judging by their summer actions.
Of course, the priority lies with retaining the services of Kylian Mbappe. The World Cup winner has become PSG’s figurehead player over the past 12 months, emerging as their most consistent and outstanding talent in a season in which he has often been required to unlock opposing defences almost single-handedly at times, such has been the lack of team cohesion.
Out of contract at the end of June, rumors over a free departure to Real Madrid in the summer continue, although PSG remain optimistic that Mbappe will remain in France, largely thanks to the huge wages they are capable of offering him over the course of a new one or two-year deal. The outcome of these talks is likely to shape the future.
Where PSG will turn without Mbappe is unclear. Neymar, who signed a bumper new deal last year, has shown little sign of getting close to his best form over the most difficult season of his career and made a point of reminding the supporters who booed him on Saturday that he has three more years in the French capital, while Messi will be 35 when the 2022-23 season begins.
The squad needs to be gutted out. PSG are saddled with a number of well-paid fringe players who have little motivation to leave. Mauro Icardi is the most obvious example, but they are also burdened with a dramatic excess of central midfielders.
Moving these players on promises to be a challenge, particularly since sporting director Leonardo has the reputation of being a poor salesman.
Indeed, even the Brazilian’s job is not safe, with the club’s poor transfer policy over several years finally coming under the type of scrutiny that should have come about sooner.
Going into the summer, there is a sense that anything could happen at PSG and that the dream of winning the Champions League is more distant than ever before.
Perhaps this was the beginning of the end.