There was extremely entertaining Champions League action last night when PSG played Real Madrid at the Bernebeu.
Leading 1-0 from the first leg, Kylian Mbappe made it 2-0 on aggregate with a sensational goal, running on to a Neymar pass in the Thierry Henry channel, then slamming it beyond Thibaut Courtois at his near post. This is one of those goals where, if it had been scored against us, I might think ‘Oooh keeper, you should have done better’, but with no skin in the game I think it was far more down to the power and precision of Mbappe’s strike than goalkeeping error.
He had another goal disallowed for offside, and it looked as if the game was only going to go one way. That was until Real Madrid’s golden oldies stepped up and turned things upside down. Karim Benzema took advantage of a mistake from Donnarumma (one he had no small part in by closing him down and leaving a bit on the PSG keeper), and he was on hand to score the equaliser.
Then superb play from Luca Modric fashioned a chance for Vinicius but unwilling to use his left foot he came inside and got crowded out. He found Modric again who just went ‘ok, no hassle’, and made another chance, a brilliant pass to Benzema who finished from inside the box with one of those shots that beats everyone because it’s not the perfect contact. Two minutes later, Benzema did it again. PSG gave it away from kick off, and he was there – like some kind of spring chicken hopped on speedballs – sprinting onto the loose ball to make it 3-2.
Unreal, and just so, so funny. The way PSG lost their heads and simply couldn’t get back into the game again was incredible. When you look at the array of talent and experience they have in that side, there’s no rational explanation for it – although many have pointed to the presence of a former Sp*rs manager in the dugout. Perhaps that’s part of it, but let’s not ignore the fact that this is something PSG have done before, more than once, and it pre-dates Pochettino.
All the money, all that corruption, and they’re still incapable of being anything other than themselves. At a time when the term ‘sports-washing’ is in everybody’s lexicon and to the forefront of everyone’s minds due to the abandonment of Chelsea by Roman Abramovich because of his apparent connection to a twisted warmonger, we should all rejoice at the failure of PSG last night. They are the ultimate example of ‘sports-washing’, where vast wealth has been used to stack the deck in their favour – as well as having a profound impact on the transfer market and football as a whole because of the money they throw around without a care in the world – and they continue to find new ways to fail.
If you can’t laugh at that, there’s something wrong. I am laughing this morning, and I will continue to laugh all day. I will laugh at the faces of their players, and I will laugh at their owners. There were reports afterwords that PSG’s president, Nasser Al-Khelaifi, tried to storm the referee’s room in a rage that VAR hadn’t overturned a ‘foul’ on Donnarumma in the build-up to the first goal, but got it wrong, and ended screaming into the face of a Real Madrid delegate – with extreme threats thrown around when he was caught on video being the nasty bully he is.
I know football is tribal, and we all have our own rivalries, but opposition to the likes of PSG and clubs owned by nation states and oligarchs who are using football for their own reputations and not out of any love for the sport or the game, should be something that brings most of us together. Maybe what’s happened of late might open more people’s eyes to their pernicious influence on football and on society at large. They are only positive for the fans of those clubs and the people involved in them, but it comes at the expense of everyone else. Everything else they bring to the table is bad, and I don’t know how quickly anything might change – if at all – but in the meantime we can laugh at PSG and how much cheaper it would have been for their owners to actually buy a bottling plant, rather than create one with a collection of the highest transfer fees football has ever seen.
Coming back to Mbappe for a moment. There was lots of stuff after the first leg about how he had everything he needed in Paris, and how he could win the trophies his talent deserves there. Last night was the perfect encapsulation of why he’ll go to Real Madrid in the summer. It’s because they win things and PSG can’t. They are a strange, weird, unpleasant organisation in their own right, but they have a history and a culture that is built on success. PSG is an empty shell of a facade of a cultural and sporting wasteland to which shiny things are attracted for a little while, but finding nothing of substance they depart once again unless they’re sufficiently happy with their remuneration that they are willing to overlook the entire charade and just take the cash to salve the sporting shortfall they know they’re experiencing.
If you were Kylian Mbappe, would you stay there, or would use the opportunity you have to leave on a Bosman, and play the rest of your short career at one of the world’s biggest and most successful clubs? I think we all know the answer to that. PSG will do something to offset that, to add to the aging legs of Messi and Neymar and it might well be spectacular because they can afford to do it, but it won’t make any difference and I look forward to next season’s Champions League when Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka score a brace each in the second leg to overturn our first leg deficit (which only happened because the referee that sent Robin van Persie off in the Camp Nou was brought out of retirement to do his business on us again).
Have a laughing day folks. More on the blog tomorrow, and a brand new Arsecast too.