Thursday, 30 May 2013

Paris Saint-Germain 2012/13 squad review, Twitter-style

As you'll have noticed from the constantly recycled lines and stolen jokes, PSG Tourist is nothing if not unoriginal.

So for this end-of-season round-up I've shamelessly pinched an idea I saw on the marvellous Arseblog, and decided to review our players' seasons in the style of Twitter, using 140 characters or less. Hopefully I haven't forgotten anyone, and do let me know if you think I've got any of my ratings hopelessly wrong.

Alphonse Areola: Good hair, little first team action, would probably benefit from going out on loan somewhere #promise. C.

Nicolas Douchez: Seems happy to be Chris Woods’ to Sirigu’s Peter Shilton. Our cup specialist should practice penalty saves #shower. B-.

Ronan Le Crom: Moment in the spotlight went spectacularly pear-shaped, poor chap. #rouge. D.

Salvatore Sirigu: Another largely faultless season from Ligue 1’s keeper of the year and the Italian number one in waiting. Just retire now Buffon. #reliable. A

Alex: The Tank is increasingly suffering mobility problems, could be stuck in the mud. Still solid enough, and lethal from set pieces. #turret. C.

Christophe Jallet: Never hit the heights of last season, but decent enough. Knee-high socks possibly hampering his progress. #baldy. B.

Diego Lugano: *Blocked*

Greg Van der Wiel: Started badly and improved a bit, but positional sense remains a worry. Not better than Jallet. #wasteofmoney. C-.

Mamadou Sakho: Form much improved, looks the part alongside Silva. Been smiling a lot lately, think the PSG fan has enjoyed this season #grin. B+.

Maxwell: Doesn’t get injured, good at defending, consistent. Am dubious whether he’s actually Brazilian at all. #unsung. B+.

Siaka Tiene: Yes he’s still at the club. No, hopefully not for much longer. #chocolatefireguard. D.

Sylvain Armand: Another of the old guard on his way out, another who has played his part in the title success. Reminds me of a wolf. #howl. C.

Thiago Silva: Predictably brilliant debut season from one of the best defenders on the planet. #rollsroyce. A*.

Zoumana Camara: Despite his age, has never let the side down when called upon. Probably off this summer. #Papus. C.

Adrien Rabiot: Exciting cameos at the start of the season, reportedly been in good form for Toulouse. Come back soon. #future. C+.

Blaise Matuidi: He’s big, he’s bad, I wish he was my dad (not really). PSG’s most consistent player this season, I love him #onemanmidfield. A*.

Clement Chantome: Resurgent this season, apparently Ligue 1’s most accurate passer. Unlikely beer drinker. #choirboy. B+.

David Beckham: Stood around and looked pretty, like an ageing model. Said goodbye. Little else of note. #tears. D.

Marco Verratti: Showed great promise early on, form has fluctuated since. Still can be pleased with season. Too many bookings, stop talking #motormouth. B+.

Matthieu Bodmer: Decent little player, few chances to impress, good luck in the future #Sainte. C.

Momo Sissoko: Unfollowed

Thiago Motta: Injured a lot, suspended a lot. When he plays, you don’t really notice him. #overthehill. C-.

Ezequiel Lavezzi: Took time to get going, but looks the part now. Key in the Champions League, best achievement is starring in *that* photo. #jacuzzi. B+.

Guillaume Hoarau: See Nene, but replace "desert" with "China". #comebacktoEurope. C.

Javier Pastore: A bit like an iPad: some good features but generally you wonder whether it was worth the hype and hefty price-tag. #showpony. D.

Jeremy Menez: Man. Father. Legend. Form patchy this year but did well to tell Tony Chapron what we've all thought on more than one occasion #teammenez. B.

Kevin Gameiro: No complaining despite being sidelined for much of the season, weighed in with several important goals. Probably leaving, sadface. #deservesbetter. B+.  

Lucas Moura: Showed flashes of what he can do, bit injury-prone. Undoubtedly more to come though. #wizardofdribble. C+.

Nene: Alas poor Nene, I knew him well. Writing was on the wall at the start of the season, now getting rich in the desert. #maskC.

Peguy Luyindula: #laughedatNenewhenhewaslockedinthetoilet #beststoryever #redbull. D.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic: Thirty goals, lots of assist, one ego. Love him or hate him, he is Zlatan, and he's quite good. #nose. A*.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Lorient 1-3 PSG: Keeper craziness enlivens final fixture

I'm sure I wasn't the only Paris Saint-Germain fan who wasn't particularly excited by the prospect of last night's game at Lorient.

With neither side having anything to play for, I was expecting a dull end-of-season affair, but events in the second half ensured it was actually quite entertaining.

Three goals to the good and cruising to victory, Carlo Ancelotti did the decent thing and handed a debut to 38-year-old fourth choice keeper Ronan Le Crom, who came on in place of Alphonse Areola. Le Crom hadn't played a match of note since the end of the 2009/10 season, but looked in fine nick, making a couple of good reaction saves before it all went horribly wrong.

With five minutes remaining substitute Julien Quercia raced clear on goal, and toppled over Le Crom's clumsy challenge. It was an obvious penalty, but with Sylvain Armand back and covering, the following red card for Le Crom seemed a trifle harsh.

"I said to him, do not do this to me, please, this is perhaps the last game of my career," said a dejected Le Crom afterwards. "The referee told me he had to expel me for fear of being reprimanded by his peers. It's a shame but it will remain as a lasting memory."

No doubt it will also be a lasting memory for Mamadou Sakho, who looked overcome with joy as he donned the goalkeeper's jersey for the closing stages. The defender had a massive grin on his face despite being beaten by Arnaud Le Lan's penalty, and went on to make a couple of decent catches as PSG saw out the finals moments without conceding futher.

Overall the match was a fairly decent encapsulation of the season: Zlatan scored, a player dubiously was sent off, and PSG ended up winning by a slightly flattering scoreline.

It was goalless at half-time, with Areola having made a decent stop to foil Fabien Robert, and Javier Pastore shooting wide at the other end after a lovely move involving Ibra and Verratti.

Kevin Gameiro replaced Ezequiel Lavezzi early on, El Pocho having sustained a head injury in a clash with Mario Lemina. And it was ancien Lorientaise Gameiro who provided the pass for the opening goal just after half-time, with a lovely cross which Ibra chested into the net from six yards for his 30th goal of the season.

PSG had started the second half in purposeful mood, and Gameiro's quickfire double, in the 62nd and 65th minutes, made sure of the victory. The second goal was particularly sweet, with Pastore's pass finding Super Kev, who did the rest with a powerful volley.

Then came the keeper shenanigans, but it between times players from both teams stopped to give a standing ovation to Ludovic Guily, the former PSG forward playing the last game of what was an illustrious career. He was handed a PSG shirt by his former team-mate Armand as he exited the pitch, and then got to have his picture taken with the loitering David Beckham at the final whistle, which I'm sure he really enjoyed. 

I wrote this love letter to Guily back at the start of the season, and my feelings haven't changed since. Ligue 1 will be a sadder place without him.

Overall it was a satisfactory end to a very satisfactory season, with PSG ending the campaign with 83 league points and 101 goals in all competitions, a new club record.

"After the celebrations, my players stayed focused and united," said Ancelotti. "It was a great match, a great way to end a great season. Everyone is happy."

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Lorient vs PSG: This Carlo's not for turning

Like the recently departed Margaret Thatcher, Paris Saint-Germain boss Carlo Ancelotti is not for turning.

Fortunately Ancelotti does not have an army at his disposal (that I know of) to send into a pointless conflict on the other side of the world. And he's not threatening to take anyone's milk. But he is steadfast in his wish to leave PSG at the end of the season.

"I have not changed my mind," he said yesterday, after being asked about his future for the umpteenth time.

"Things are like last week. I am talking to the club to find a good solution for everyone. But it is not easy. We did not talk about this week, next week we'll talk."

A good solution for everyone? Fairly sure that's not going to happen, but Ancelotti insists that if he has to stay in Paris for the remaining year of his contract, he will

"If you do not find a solution, I must respect my contract," he added. "Maybe I'll be the next coach of PSG."

Yeah, and maybe Jeremy Menez will get a short back-and-sides next time he goes for a haircut.

The latest name to be linked with the position is outgoing AC Milan coach Massimo Allegri who, according to Sky Italia, has held talks with Leonardo this week. I can't help but feel Leo himself is the most likely candidate to take the hotseat, but I'm sure we'll have plenty of time to talk about that next week. And the week after.

Carletto will be in charge for tomorrow's game at Lorient though, as PSG bring the curtain down on a season which yielded a first Ligue 1 title for 19 years. He's already announced the team, which will see Papus Camara partner Rennes-bound Sylvain Armand at centre back, with Siaka Tiene making his first start of the season at left-back. Siaka has never been the most trim of full-backs, so I look forward to seeing how his physique has fared after a year spent mainly on the sidelines. Alphonse Areola will start in goal.

Lorient's season is over bar the shouting, and the Breton club has myriad injury problems, with the likes of Lamine Kone and Jeremie Aliadiere joining long-term absentee Alain Traore on the sidelines. Veteran defender Arnaud Le Lan will be playing though, and making his last appearance for FCL before retirement. Maybe he and Becks can have a little chat.

Kick off at Le Moustoir is at 8pm English time.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

The Rumour Mill: PSG talking Manchester United striker's language?

On Tuesday the French newspaper Liberation published its entire front page in English.

The reason for this was purportedly to show support for a bill currently going through the French legislature which would allow French universities to teach some classes in English.

But I suspect there could be another explanation, and that it’s all part of a cunning ploy to lure Wayne Rooney to France to sign for Paris Saint-Germain. The words are big enough – and short enough – for Wayno to understand, and there’s a secondary story about sex, a subject close to his heart, especially when old ladies are involved.

Anyway, Rooney to PSG actually looks like it may have some legs, after L’Equipe’s report yesterday that we have switched our attentions from Napoli’s Edinson Cavani to the Manchester United striker, who is supposedly unhappy at Old Trafford. Personally I don’t see much sense in this; Rooney is very expensive, and it’s arguable his best days are behind him. He also doesn’t seem like the type who would adapt well in a foreign land, but word on the street is that PSG see him as someone who could play up top with Zlatan, forming the world’s most argumentative strike partnership.

The paper version of L’Equipe is also reporting that we’re interested in Cesc Fabregas and Axel Witsel, but I can’t find this story online anywhere.
Meanwhile, PSG Manager Idol continues a-pace, with fresh candidates to replace Carlo Ancelotti crawling out of the woodwork by the hour. The newly unemployed Tony Pulis has yet to throw his trademark baseball cap into the ring, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time.

Anyway, this morning’s Parisien suggests Laurent Blanc is going to hold talks with Leonardo about taking the hot-seat. Despite France’s awful performance at Euro 2012, I wouldn’t be opposed to this.

However, getting a young coach in would not fit well with the grand plan of luring Arsene Wenger across the channel next year when his Arsenal contract expires, so PSG could instead turn to a more short-term solution. This could be in the form of Leonardo taking to the dug-out, something which I’m sure he’d love but referees might not be so keen on.

The other option is Rafa Benitez, who after his Chelsea experience is well-used to keeping the seat warm until a better option comes along. Alas the Interim One is reportedly in high demand, with Roma and Napoli both interested.

All this is going despite the fact Ancelotti hasn’t gone anywhere yet. It appears there won’t be any news on his future until Monday at the earliest.

Finally, it seems that Sylvain Armand is sur le depart, with the veteran defender set to sign for Rennes on a two-year-contract. He has been a terrific servant to the club and his wolf-ish face will be sadly missed, though I don’t think anyone can begrudge him a move that offers regular first team football.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Getting shirty: PSG's new kit divides opinion

Monday, 20 May 2013

A weekend in Paris: Ancelotti's exit, Beckham's tears and PSG's title

Those who remember Paris Saint-Germain from the pre-QSI days will know the club has a habit of flitting from one disaster to the next.

Though the relegation battles and financial strife of the 2000s are now a thing of the past (we hope), there was something decidedly old-skool about the weekend's events.
Because despite the fact that the club was celebrating it's first title win in 19 years, and was officially presented with the trophy before Saturday's 3-1 win over Brest, all the talk since has been about two men who are leaving: Carlo Ancelotti and David Beckham.

Ancelotti has been dodging questions about his future for several months, but confirmed the worst-kept secret in French Football - that he wants to bugger off to Real Madrid this summer - to reporters at last night's Ligue 1 awards ceremony, where he was named joint-coach of the year with St Etienne's Christophe Galtier.

“We had a meeting [with club president Nasser al Khelaifi and sporting director Leonardo] and I asked to leave the club," said Ancelotti, who is likely to replace Chelsea-bound Jose Mourinho.

I've discussed the Ancelotti issue at length before, and I think the important thing now is that it's sorted quickly one way or the other. The last thing we need is a long, drawn-out, process of changing coach which disrupts the preparations for next season. Ancelotti has done a decent job - not great, but decent - and I'll be sad to see him go, but usually in football once a player of manager has had his head turned, there is very little you can do to unturn it.

President Nasser reckons he can do some unturning, presumably by stuffing a even bigger bag of oil money in Ancelotti's pocket

"We talked [with Ancelotti] and he asked us to go to Real Madrid, but I told him it was not possible because he has one year left on his contract," he said. "I'm not angry, but disappointed. I hope we can change his mind".

I admire Nasser's optimism, but he sounds like a poor deluded husband whose wife has informed him she's bored and is considering going off with a better-looking bloke.

Speaking of better looking blokes, Beckham has left the building after a teary finale on Saturday night.

"It couldn't have been more perfect," said the former England skipper of his final match, which saw him take the captain's armband and provide an assist for PSG's second goal, a corner which was converted by Blaise Matuidi.

"The emotions started kicking in earlier today, when the manager called me in and said 'we've spoken to the players, it's the players' idea - we want to make you captain.' It's really special for an Englishman to be captain of PSG - especially on a night that meant so much to the club and the players. It was an amazing gesture and one I'll always be thankful for.

"Tonight was a nice way to go out, in front of my own fans. It was a capacity crowd that were excited because we have won the league. The celebrations have been incredible so it was a nice way to walk off the pitch."
Such a perfect day, and I'm glad we spent it with you Becks.

In Zlatan's head, Zlatan is the only story that matters, and he continued his quest to become the first player since Jean Pierre-Papin in 1989/90 to score 30 Ligue 1 goals in a season, netting a brace as PSG cruised past already relegated Brest. 

Visiting keeper Alexis Thebaux might feel he should have done better on all three goals, with Ibra's first shot going through his body, and Matuidi's bouncing effort spinning up over the goalkeeper. Thebaux also got a hand to Zlatan's second, a 25-yard free kick, but could only help it on it's way into the net. Charlison Benschop notched a late reply for Brest, beating substitute goalkeeper Alphonse Areola, who joined the action in the second half to make his first appearance of the season and ensure he would pick up a league winner's medal.

Zlatan has since been crowned Ligue 1's player of the year, and joins six team-mates - Sirigu, Jallet, Thiago Silva, Maxwell, Matuidi and Verratti, in the divisional team of the year, which is nice.

While Becks and Carletto are getting out, Carlos Tevez is very much warming to the prospect of a move to France. You may remember that we were heavily linked with Tevez in January 2012, but the striker wasn't very keen and remained at Manchester City. Now Kia Joorabchian is feeling a bit poor the PSG project has moved on and Tevez says he would be happy to pitch up in France, be it a PSG or Monaco.

"There was interest from PSG for me, and we talked with Leonardo, but we could not reach an agreement," Tevez told Telefoot, while making the little 'call me' sign with his hand into the camera.

"But it remains an interesting option as the French championship is moving very fast. If Leonardo called me, it's not a problem for me to come, really no problem to come to Paris and France."

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Do one Dave: Beckham's retirement is best for both parties

Not content with introducing a new club badge for next season, Paris Saint-Germain will also be taking the radical step of changing the club name.

Yes it’s true, from next season David Beckham’s PSG will be reverting to plain old PSG, with the news announced earlier today that the former England skipper will be retiring come the end of the season. Sadly for Joey Barton’s Marseille, such a change seems less likely down south. Good luck with that OM.

Boules D’Or will be available for PSG’s last two matches, against Brest on Saturday and at Lorient next weekend, so expect him to be all over any free kick in the vicinity of the opposition half as he looks to end his fairytale career with a goal. In fact, such is the worldwide sycophancy shown towards Beckham that I half expect Lorient’s players will be trying to help him find the net too.

Contrary to the impression conveyed in this blog and my tweets, I am not a big Beckham hater. In fact I always used to stick up for him when he was England captain, and the whole celebrity thing never bothered me when he was a decent player, which he undoubtedly was.

The problem is he ceased to be a decent player some time ago, and since joining PSG his contribution on the pitch has been minimal. He can’t run, he can’t tackle and he can’t shoot very well, and aside from moaning a lot and pinging the odd nice-looking cross-field pass out to one of the full-backs, it’s hard to remember anything significant he’s done in a PSG shirt.

So the prospect of him hanging around next season was not one that filled me with joy, not least because he is blocking up a squad position for players much more deserving. Without Beckham there is more chance that Clement Chantome will get a run of games in his proper central position rather than being shifted out to the right. Chantome has his detractors among the PSG fans, but I like him a lot and, according to OptaJean, he is Ligue 1’s most accurate passer. The Parisien Xavi? Maybe not, but still a pretty fine effort:
There’s also the prospect of Adrien Rabiot returning from his loan spell with Toulouse. Rabiot’s future has been up for debate, with the player supposedly considering a move away from Paris. With the prospect of Beckham blocking his path to the first-team having diminished, hopefully he’ll be happy to stay and will be given a bit more game time next year. Rabiot may only be 18, but Ancelotti rates him highly and anyone who’s seen him glide around the pitch will know he has star quality. It would be a crime if another team were to benefit than that.

So yeah, today’s news is probably best for all concerned. Becks can ride off into the sunset before his ageing legs weaken any further, and PSG will benefit from the exposure and “prestige” that will inevitably surround his final game.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

PSG: CHAMPIONS OF FRANCE - 24 hours of joy, illness and violence


Ok, so it took 19 years - and the GDP of a small African country - to get there, but PSG are Champions of France once more and boy does it feel good. I'm sure I wasn't the only one walking round with a permanent grin on my face yesterday.

To make things even better, Jezza Menezza was hero of the hour as PSG secured a 1-0 win over Lyon on Sunday night to clinch the title and spark wild celebrations at the Stade de Gerland. Thiago Motta won possession in midfield and found Zlatan, who in turn played in Menez. He did the rest with a cool angled finish past OL stopper Lopes. After scoring such an important goal, I'm sure the whole world will see Jezza for the hard-working, dedicated, ego-free team player that he is underneath. Maybe.

But it wouldn't be the PSG way to celebrate this magnificent achievement in a happy and drama-free fashion. First came the news that Director of Football Leonardo had been taken to hospital with a stress-related illness. Leo had been pictured in the aftermath of the Lyon match having a heated discussion with Zlatan Ibrahimovic over the striker's reluctance to leave the party and go and take a drug test, which just goes to show that it's pointless arguing with Ibra if you value your life.

Anyway, Leo is back home now and reportedly on the road to recovery, get well soon you charming little Brazilian. It's probably lucky he wasn't at the victory parade in Paris yesterday, as this would have undoubtedly sent his blood pressure soaring again.

The parade started well enough, with the squad on an open-top bus saluting thousands of people who lined the streets of the capital, waving flags and letting off fireworks and flares. The players were obviously loving it, Mamadou Sakho in particular seemed to have achieved the highest state of happiness I've ever seen in a single human being. It soon became apparent, though, that security wasn't the best, with chavs on mopeds having free reign to zoom around the bus and one over-exuberant supporter even trying to jump off a balcony and onto the top deck.

Things really started going downhill when the players reached their destination, the Trocadero. There was barely time to lift the trophy (above) before the players were whisked away back-stage, and fights started between fans and police. The police are - obviously - blaming the crowd, who they say charged the podium where the players were standing, then got violent with officers who tried to reinforce security.

“The conclusion you can draw is that there won’t be more any more events like this in a public place for Paris Saint-Germain,” said Paris Police chief Benard Boucault afterwards, and indeed a planned river cruise on the Seine was swiftly cancelled.

The club was also quick to release a statement condemning the events at the Trocadero: "The party was spoiled by a few hundred troublemakers who have nothing to do with football and even less with those that fill the Parc des Princes on match days with such passion and enthusiasm and in total security.

"Paris Saint-Germain is more determined than ever to build a huge European club, worthy of the French capital, and far removed from those intent on trying to destroy that dream."

It's an awkward situation for everyone. The club can say that these people have "nothing to do with football", but history suggests that there is a sizable minority of violent berks within our fanbase. Despite the efforts made in recent years to keep them away, they will still come out of the woodwork from time-to-time, and when they do you have to take some responsibility for them.

But its too easy for those in authority to just blame the supporters. In my experience the French police are not a nice organisation, and I imagine many of the officers on duty at the Trocadero yesterday were only too happy to get the chance to wield their batons and their tear gas canisters.

It seems to me the parade saw an unfortunate coming together of two groups of people who like a fight: one group wearing uniforms and carrying riot shields, and the other supposedly representing our great club. The title celebrations will continue on Saturday when we face Brest at the Parc des Princes, and lets hope yesterday's scenes can be put to bed without too many recriminations.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Thiago Silva "shove-gate": No one takes credit from PSG's Diner de Cons

I don’t really get French films.

To me they seem to fall into two categories: arty misery-fests with copious sex, self-harm, and destruction, or stupid comedies set on beaches or camp sites.

Falling into the latter category is a particular favourite of my wife’s: Le Diner de Cons. This is literally a film about a group of men who bring the most idiotic people they can find together for a dinner. Hilarious japes ensue.

Anyway, so far this week at Paris Saint-Germain has felt a bit like a Diner de Cons, with people queuing up to make themselves look like idiots.

Predictably, PSG failed to all-but win the title on Sunday by only managing a 1-1 draw against struggling Valenciennes. In fact it needed Alex’s late header to salvage even a point from the match after Gael Danic had opened the scoring.

The real story of the evening was PSG skipper Thiago Silva’s red card, awarded for a “shove” on Alexandre Castro. I add the inverted commas with good reason, as it was a push that carried about as much force as your average shot from Peguy Luyindula. In fact it would be more accurate to say Silva was red-carded was gently placing both his hands on the referee’s chest in a slightly accusatory fashion.

Yesterday the Brazilian was handed a two-match ban following the incident, while Leonardo is also in hot water after appearing to barge into Castro during the half-time interval. You can see footage of the incident here if you’re so inclined.

Leo has been suspended from attending matches while the incident is investigated, and potentially faces a ban of up to a year, while PSG could also be deducted points because of his conduct.

Perhaps the least culpable figure in this tale of stupidity is the man who started it all off, Thiago Silva himself. While physical contact with the referee probably isn’t advisable, he is the team captain, and you can understand why he was frustrated at not being able to get the referee’s attention.

Which leads us on nicely to Mr Castro. In a season where we have seen some truly rubbish refereeing performances in Ligue 1, his was complètement merde with a capital M. Sadly, refs increasingly seem to want to make a name for themselves when they do our matches, showing that they can put the big names in their place. There may be some merit to this approach, but Castro made a series of baffling decisions, and seemed unwilling to enter into any dialogue about why he was doing so. Our players are not shrinking violets (more on that later) but they deserve to be treated as fairly as any other team, and if the referee had kept his cool and been a bit more open we might have avoided this whole episode.

That’s not to excuse Leonardo though. "It's the delegate in front of me, with a black ear-piece, who blocked my path. It's him who pushed me into the referee," Leo whined in L’Equipe. "Look at the pictures: I don't touch the referee with my shoulder but with my back. Because I was the one pushed. It is me who was assaulted. The referee doesn't have the face of someone who's been attacked. That's because there was no violence on my part."

Have a look for yourself and then decide whether you believe his version of events:

Regardless of who pushed who, you have to wonder what on earth Leonardo was even doing there in the first place? He’s a director of the football club, not a player or coach.
He then went on to have a big rant about the nasty referees who have it in for us: "It went beyond all logic,” he said.

“It's annoying as we have four players suspended and get another red card. If it continues like this, we'll find ourselves with ten players suspended and no team.

"They're trying to hold us back. With five players out, it's more difficult. We've got three games left and need a win."

Personally I don’t think he’s got much chance of convincing referees not to send off our players because, er, we’ve already had a few players sent off in the past. Perhaps a better use of his time would be to have a look at the conduct of the team on the pitch, which isn’t always particularly befitting of Champions-in-waiting. Also, we have more money and a bigger squad than anyone other team, no-one is going to be sympathetic if a few of them are suspended.

This should be a week of excitement and anticipation, with the title only three points away. But sadly many people looking at PSG from the outside will see a club lacking class, an occurrence which is all too common these days.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Time to party like it's 1994? Looking back at PSG's last Ligue 1 triumph

Sunday could be the day the inevitable is confirmed and Paris Saint-Germain are crowned Ligue 1 champions.

The maths are so simple even the most bone-headed of UKIP voters could work it out: If Marseille fail to win against Bastia and we beat Valenciennes on Sunday night then the champagne can start flowing in Paris. And Qatar. Even if/when OM win 1-0 against the Corsicans, a PSG victory pretty much wraps things up due to our goal difference advantage of 35.

PSG’s long history of incompetence means this will be our first title since the 1993/94 season. Who remembers 93/94? Not me, I was 11 and more concerned about whether Cambridge United would qualify for the Division Three play-offs (they didn’t) than what Artur Jorge’s Rouge-et-Bleu squad were up to.

But what a squad it was. People go on about the amount of big names we have now, but check out this list of players: Lama, Kombouare, Le Guen, Roche, Guerin, Valdo, Ginola, Rai, Weah. That’s a decent spine by anyone’s reckoning, and it was no surprise that the campaign ended in glorious fashion.

The previous season had seen PSG finish second behind Marseille, though President Bernard Tapie’s player-bribing activities subsequently saw OM stripped of their title. In a wonderfully French turn of events, PSG’s owners, Canal+, declined to take the title instead for fear that they would alienate subscribers in the south. It all sounds very messy and a bit corrupt.

Onto 93/94, and Jorge's trademark facial hair was looking particularly bushy as he sniffed a first PSG title win since 1986. He kept the bulk of his 1992/93 squad together, but bolstered his forward line with the addition of future Watford striker Xavier Gravelaine from Caen, and Brazilian maestro Rai, who arrived Sao Paulo for a fee of $4.6million. The attacking midfielder, who would go on to spend five glorious years at Parc des Princes, distinguished himself on matchday eight against Montpellier, scoring the only goal in a 1-0 win and pulling off coup du foulard – or Rabona as it’s known in the rest of the world – passing the ball to a team-mate by kicking it from behind his standing leg. Top tekkers, as they definitely didn’t say in 1993.

In the early matches of the season PSG were not showing signs of league-winning form. A 1-0 opening day loss to Bordeaux set the tone for a patchy beginning to the campaign, which included just three wins in their first seven games and a 1-0 defeat to Marseille, who at this stage looked likely to defend their ill-gotten title.

However, Jorge’s men soon kick into gear, and impressive 4-0 win over Auxerre (who would go on to finish third) set the tone for an unbeaten run that would last for 27 games, a Ligue 1 record until it was busted the 12 months later by Nantes. All the more remarkable was that this was achieved without captain Kombouare, who ruptured his cruciate ligament in training at the end of September causing him to miss the majority of the season.

That 4-0 result wasn’t particularly characteristic though, as PSG’s success was built on a series of 1-0 victories, with future coaches Le Guen and Brazilian Ricardo proving to be rocks at the back alongside Roche. Just 22 goals were shipped all season, a miserly record the class of 2013 look set to match.

Up top, David Ginola was providing the team’s principle attacking threat, and finished the season top scorer on 18 goals. You may remember that 1993 was the year France lost 2-1 at home to Bulgaria, thus failing to qualify for the 1994 World Cup. The blame for this failure was placed firmly on the shoulders of Ginola, who gave the ball away carelessly in the run up to Kostadinov’s winning goal. The mercurial winger answered his critics in the best possible fashion, scoring the opener in his next match to set PSG on the way to a 2-1 victory at Toulouse.

PSG’s good league form was achieved alongside a foray to the latter stages of the Cup Winners Cup, though this was terminated by eventual winners Arsenal in the semi-finals. The unbeaten Ligue 1 run continued unabated, and only came to an end with six matches of the season to go, when Nantes gave us a taste of what was to come the following year by administering a 3-0 tonking.

But by then the Ligue 1 title was pretty much in the bag, and it was secured in front of a packed Parc des Princes when Ricardo nodded in a Valdo corner to seal a 1-0 win against Toulouse. The final whistle saw fans invade the pitch to celebrate the title success – little did they know how long they’d have to wait for another one.

Jorge and his amazing moustache were gone at the end of the season, with the Portuguese coach returning to his homeland to boss Benfica. Nearly 20 years later, and it seems the next man to guide PSG to title glory, Carlo Ancelotti, will not be hanging around either. Plus ca change…

(NB: I couldn't have written this article without referring to, a wonderful PSG nostalgia site. Check it out if you can read French. Or use Google translate.)

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