Can Paris Saint-Germain finally become a force to reckon with in Europe?
Paris Saint-Germain beat Barcelona 4-0 at the Parc Des Princes in their first leg fixture of the UEFA Champions League, only to fall victim to one of the greatest comebacks in the competition's history last season.
Even though they didn't progress, they showed potential of becoming a heavyweight in Europe. The signs were there that they have built a team that can compete against the best out there.
The season before that, in the 2015-16 UCL, PSG put in a great performance at the Santiago Bernabeu even though they lost 1-0 to Real Madrid. But, those who saw the game would tell you that it was only because PSG were extremely unfortunate as they struck the post two times and created innumerable chances which were not taken.
It was a cross gone wrong which led to the solitary goal that Real Madrid scored that night. PSG dominated Madrid in every aspect on their own backyard.
This season again, they have demolished Bayern Munich 3-0, leading to the sacking of Carlo Ancelotti. For three consecutive seasons now they have made the 'Big-3' of Europe stretch and have actually demolished two of them, an achievement in itself to which not many teams in Europe if any, can lay claim to.
PSG have always been a force to reckon with in France and after Oryx Qatar Sports Investment took over the ownership in 2011, they have tried to become a force in Europe too.
They have bought players of the class of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Edinson Cavani, Thiago Silva, Angel Di Maria etc to become competitive in Europe and challenge the best sides around. However, they have never progressed ahead of the quarterfinals in the UCL.
With all the talents they had previously, PSG seem to have hit the bulls-eye with the acquisition of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe earlier this summer. While Neymar, without doubt, is one of the top 3 players in the world, Kylian Mbappe is one of the most talented footballers out there at the age of 18.
In these two, PSG have secured their long-term future and if they can fulfil their potential, PSG can dream of becoming a giant in Europe. The two stars have formed a potent partnership with Edinson Cavani, whose graph has been on an upward trajectory ever since he has started playing back in his natural position of striker after the departure of Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Cavani, Neymar and Mbappe form one of the deadliest trios in club football at the moment. If there was any bad blood between Neymar and Cavani over 'who will take the penalty and freekick' incidents, it all seems to have subsided in the match against Bayern Munich, as they took turns with freekicks and also shared some good moments like Cavani consoling Neymar after his miss.
PSG also have a great midfield in the form of Thiago Motta, Marco Verratti and Adrien Rabiot who complement each other really well. PSG also acquired the services of Dani Alves in defence, which is a great addition to the squad.
In Dani Alves, they have a player who is a seasoned campaigner and bring loads of experience to that backline. Add to that the defensive astuteness of club captain Thiago Silva and the exciting young talents of Marquinhos and Kurzawa, and PSG look quite stable at the back too.
PSG will also take heart from the fact that they have enough ammunition on the bench in the likes of Angel Di Maria, Javier Pastore, Julian Draxler who are top class talents and can change the course of the game on their own.
PSG arguably have the second best squad in Europe after Real Madrid. They might like to get an upgrade in their goalkeeping position, as their number one Kevin Trapp has been shaky of late.
UEFA, though, has started an investigation against them on a possible breach of Financial Fair Play (FFP) norms after their expensive acquisition of Neymar and Mbappe in the summer, and they might need to sell some of their players to ensure compliance.
But, even after that, they will still have enough firepower to ensure they can rise as a true power in Europe. PSG are one of the richest and most valuable clubs in world football right now. They have enough financial strength to acquire the services of the best players and managers out there and they have shown that.
However, one thing that can halt their progress is the mentality. One of the main things that differentiate the clubs of the stature of Real Madrid and Barcelona from others is their mentality. They believe that they are the best around.
A game of football is won a lot of times in the head, not on the field. The way PSG bottled up their 4 goal advantage against Barcelona at Camp Nou last season shows that PSG don't have that mentality at the moment.
They played like a small team would, sitting deep and defending like amateurs instead of going out and taking the matters into their own hands like a top club would do. They seem to be lost in the head and were overwhelmed by the occasion while Barcelona went about doing the job as they believed they can.
That match showed them the mirror and displayed their main weakness. Their mental setup was one of the major reason for their monumental breakdown that night in Barcelona and if they want to attain the status of a heavyweight club in Europe they need to get that attitude and mentality.
They now have acquired the services of the man who played a major role in Barcelona's win that night, in Neymar. With Dani Alves also there, they now have two players who have been there before and know what it takes to win the Europe's major competition.
They would like to make use of their experience and win Europe's premier club competition and be a regular contender for the title. PSG would know that if they want to become a true heavyweight in Europe they have to challenge for the title regularly. If they don't reach the last stages of the competition regularly moving forward, it will be taken as a failure for the club.
You have to believe that a win in UCL is not really out of their sights in near future with the kind of squad they have built and the financial power they have. The way they handle this pressure of expectations and build on it, will determine whether they can be called in the same bracket as that of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich.
The potential is truly there but 'Will it be realised?' is the question to be asked.