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PARIS MATCH

Kylian Mbappé eyes fairytale PSG exit in the form of Champions League glory

Kylian Mbappé eyes fairytale PSG exit in the form of Champions League glory
French superstar Kylian Mbappé scored twice for PSG as they overturned a first leg deficit to beat Barcelona 4-1 and advance to the Uefa Champions League semi-finals. (Photo: Christian Liewig - Corbis/Getty Images)

Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) has dominated French soccer for a decade. During that period, Champions League success has proven to be elusive. Will the club remedy this in 2024?

The Paris-based club is in the semifinals of the Uefa Champions League for just the third time since the club’s Qatari owners bought the team in 2011, with the ambitions of transforming it into a force both in France and globally.

So far, in spite of the money that has been pumped into the club by its current custodians, European glory has proven beyond reach. The closest PSG has come to winning the Champions League was in the 2019/20 campaign, when the team reached the final. PSG was beaten by Bayern Munich in that season’s decider.

The ambitions of Qatar Sports Investments have been fulfilled on the domestic front though. In the period of more than a decade that they have been in charge, the Qatari-government-backed project has yielded impressive results in home competitions.

The 20-plus trophies PSG has won since 2011 has seen the club usurp the likes of Lyon and Marseille to stand alone as the best French club. Nevertheless, the players have not been able to transfer this domestic dynasty to the European competition.

Over the last couple of seasons, the Parisians have regressed from reaching their maiden Champions League final four years ago.

PSG’s Vitinha celebrates after scoring against Barcelona. (Photo: Christian Liewig – Corbis/Getty Images)

Soccer legends, last season

Last season, boasting one of the best current players in the world in Kylian Mbappé, as well as other stars such as Brazilian Neymar and sports legend Lionel Messi — PSG failed to navigate past the round of 16 in the Champions League, for a second season on the spin.

Since then, Neymar and Messi have both departed the French side. Messi is now based in the US, while Neymar plays for Saudi Arabian club Al Hilal.

Read more in Daily Maverick: PSG’s Champions League pursuit likely hampered by constant spotlight on Kylian Mbappe

Only Mbappé remains from what was supposed to be a dream attacking trio. And he scored a brace to help his club dispatch Barcelona 6-4 on aggregate during this week’s quarterfinal encounters.

The lethal Mbappé has this season taken his tally to 48 Champions League goals, thereby placing himself on course to become the second-youngest player to reach 50 Champions League goals, after Messi.

With the 25-year-old set to depart PSG at the end of the current season, he dreams of fulfilling his destiny with the French champions by leading them to elusive European glory.   

“I have the dream of winning the Champions League for Paris,” said Mbappé, after the team dispatched Barcelona.  

“I’ve been proud to be at PSG since the first day. It’s not because there are good times and bad times that my pride takes a hit,” said the second-most expensive player in the history of soccer. PSG bought him for €180-million in 2018. 

“The pride of playing for this club, of representing the club of the capital of my country? It’s something special for me, who grew up there.

“To experience an evening like this one as a Parisian, it’s great. We have one more step to go before we reach the final in Wembley. So we need to stay calm.”

PSG coach Luis Enrique reacts during the Uefa Champions League quarterfinal second leg against Barcelona in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo: Christian Liewig – Corbis/Getty Images)

PSG will encounter a Borussia Dortmund side that is in the semifinals for the first time in 11 years. The last time the German club reached this stage of the tournament was during the 2012/2013 season — when Jürgen Klopp was still at the helm.

After successfully navigating past Real Madrid to reach the final, they lost to fellow Bundesliga side Bayern in the final — which was coincidentally also held at London’s Wembley Stadium. The Germans will be desperate to add a second European crown to their trophy haul, after last conquering the continent in 1997.

Should Mbappé and his teammates successfully see off Dortmund, they face the tough task of beating either Real or Bayern in the 1 June final. The two teams possess 20 Champions League titles between them. DM

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