PSG have generally been regarded as colossal bottle jobs in the Champions League, but have wins against Atalanta and Borussia Dortmund removed the monkey from their backs?
It’s not quite so much that Paris St Germain are in the Champions League semi-finals that should provoke joy for them, but how they got there.
This was a team of bottlers and chokers, men of fat wallets but weak wills, who fold like a cheap deckchair whenever any sort of adversity rears its head.
But after coming back from behind against Borussia Dortmund in the round of 16, then scoring twice after the 89th minute against Atalanta in the quarter-finals, can we now say that the monkey is off their back?
Julien Laurens, Paris born and bred, certainly thinks so:
“They’re still capable of bottling it in the semi-final, but it really felt like that win against Borussia Dortmund in the last 16 in an empty Parc des Prince, psychologically changed a lot of things. Had they not had a performance like that, having struggled in the first leg, they played really well mentally – I don’t think [the win over Atalanta] would have happened. They would have crumbled again, they wouldn’t have persevered so much.
“That game against Dortmund changed something mentally for those players, and for Thomas Tuchel as well. Since then, that team has really become a team: I think before it was still a sum of individuals, Neymar wanted to leave badly last summer, I think there was a bit of tension between Tuchel and some of the players, even a few in the dressing room.
“But after that win against Dortmund, it all changed, and they were very close during the lockdown even though they couldn’t see each other, then after lockdown you could feel that a team was born and had grown out of those few months, and the win over Dortmund.
“Against Atalanta, what made the difference was they persevered as a team. OK, Neymar did a lot of things by himself and then when Kylian Mbappe came on he helped him a lot, but this was very much a collective performance, in terms of team spirit.
“They still might have a few remontadas down the years, but psychologically reaching the semi-final for the first time in 25 years would be huge mentally for that club – not just the players, but the club.”
Still, while they are now a team in spirit, they still have an individual who is capable of shining brighter than anyone else.
“Neymar was just unstoppable. I’ve rarely seen a player, in those sort of games, be able to dominate a game so much, apart from Messi and Ronaldo.
“What I liked was he kept going, and in the end he was decisive for the two goals. Whether you like him or not, you have to give him how he persevered, how he kept going. He got kicked all around the pitch, but in the end it was him who carried the team and sent them through.”
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