When PSG signed David Beckham, pretty much everyone wrote it off as a publicity stunt. I defended his ability and legacy as a player, which I still do, but its impossible to deny that the marketing incentive was definitely part of the deal. It was written off as simply another way for a free-spending club on the rise to get their name out there and sell some shirts (they’ve sold $20+ million). David Beckham started the first leg of the Champions League Quarterfinal matchup against Barcelona yesterday.
Don’t worry, this article isn’t about Beckham, but his presence really emphasized what I, and probably a lot of others, viewed PSG as before the match. He is the most hyped player in a squad full of hype. A player over-the-hill in a team that is not quite there yet. Just a marketing tool for a few greedy Arab owners. This team was going to be destroyed by Barcelona, especially with Beckham in the side.
However PSG were impressive. This team is stocked with quality up and down the pitch. Beckham and his old legs were perhaps not the best choice to go against the best midfield in the world but its likely that Ancelotti wanted his still world-class technique to start counterattacks or find Ibrahimovic up front with long balls and provide a set-piece threat against a team that is terrible at defending them. His composure and experience also helped settle down a young midfield. Ibrahimovic is of course a world-class striker and was always going to do well against his former side. He provided a great focal point for attack and had a couple great chances that he should’ve put away. Made up for it with his goal though. Lavezzi and Lucas were largely anonymous but were still threats with their skill and pace. Matuidi provided energy to the midfield and of course a goal at the death to claim a vital draw. Pastore was disappointing in the second half but showed some of his huge potential in the first. Then we have Thiago Silva, easily the man of the match.
Barcelona must be cursing the day that they missed out on his transfer now, as he was immense yesterday. He read the game well and was largely responsible for nullifying Barcelona’s attack for much of the game. After all, Messi was pretty much invisible until a simply sublime Alves pass found him. Then it was his header that hit the bar and rebounded for an offside Ibrahimovic for the first goal. He was omnipresent and provided great leadership; shouting at players to get up the field right after Xavi scored from the penalty spot to give Barcelona what looked like a win at the time. PSG have a true cornerstone in defense in him.
Reaching the quarterfinals of the Champions League is no small feat. After all, its farther than Manchester City have ever gone. In fact, if the Champions League is by far the most prestigious and difficult to progress in competition in the world, it could be argue that PSG have achieved more than Manchester City already by this stage. Add what is looking like a Ligue 1 crown, and PSG have achieved a rise that is just as or even more meteoric than that of City.
At what point do we start talking about PSG as an elite club? What does being an elite club even mean?
On paper, PSG have a team that is capable of competing with the very best and Ancelotti is one of the best tacticians around. However, their performances so far have not been up to par. Their Ligue 1 campaign will likely result in a third title, but they have hardly been dominant. A 7 point gap now separates them from rivals Olympique de Marseille, but in truth they have been nearly neck-to-neck all season.
Progression on club football’s biggest stage has certainly helped though. Their performance against arguably the best team in the world will have won them many plaudits and much vindication regarding their spending. Reaching the quarterfinals in the Champions League and a league title is not a bad platform to build off of at all. Then add in some likely summer reinforcements and their status as the only major club in one of the most famous cities in the world and PSG are well on their way to the top.
Cover photo: AP Photo/Francois Mori