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Why is it so difficult for PSG to win the UEFA Champions League ?

Paris Saint-Germain v Manchester United - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: Second Leg
Paris Saint-Germain v Manchester United - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: Second Leg
Modified 10 Mar 2019, 23:10 IST

Last Wednesday marked yet another tragic day for the Parisian giants of Ligue 1, as they crashed out of the Champions League yet again. Club CEO Nasser Al-Khekaifi's ambition of winning the coveted European trophy came to a halt in the Round of 16 stage of Europe's most elite football competition. No team had ever lost a Champions League tie from the commanding 2-0 scoreline that PSG had after the away leg.

Yes, everyone is talking about the controversial VAR decision in the 90th minute that gave Manchester United their winning goal, but there are many other reasons as to why it is difficult for PSG to win the Champions League. Here are some intriguing reasons that clearly doesn't favour PSG to win the Champions League anytime soon.

Experience and Legacy

The Champions League is a very demanding competition. It is where most elite teams of European football compete with each other to be the undisputed winner of Europe in that season. The teams have to be at their very best in each and every game since all their opponents are another team who has performed extremely well in their respective national leagues.

Statistics suggest that only teams who have a habit of winning the competition and a very long history of being in existence as a football club, are indeed the teams who go on to lift the Champions League trophy.

In the last 25 years of competition (since it was rebranded as Champions League) there have only been 3 instances of teams winning the trophy for the first time. Moreover, each of these 3 teams have more than 100 years of legacy and history. On top of that, none of those teams have ever won a second Champions League trophy. The winning teams were -

  1. 1992-93 - Marseille (ESTD. 1899)
  2. 1996-97 - Borussia Dortmund (ESTD. 1909)
  3. 2011-12 - Chelsea (ESTD. 1905)

It's evident that it took a really long time for the above clubs to win their first Champions League trophy. Compared to them, PSG is relatively pretty new (ESTD. 1970).

Overall, 62 finals have been played (both Champions League & European Cup). Out of those, only 10 finals yielded a first-time winner of the coveted trophy and none of those teams went in to lift a second trophy.

Clearly, the Champions League (and European Cup) favors clubs who have won the trophy more than once and have a rich legacy and history.


Interestingly, French teams have a very poor record in the Champions League (as well as the European Cup). All of us know that Real Madrid won the first European Cup back in 1956. But the runner-up in that season was indeed a French team - Stade de Reims.

French teams have only featured in 6 finals (both Champions League & European Cup), the least among the top 5 Football Leagues in Europe and managed to win only a single trophy i.e. Marseille in 1992-93.

Bad form in the knockout rounds

Since the inception of the 32 team format in the 2009-10 season of Champions League, PSG have qualified 7 times for the knockout phase of the competition. On all but one occasion, PSG were also the winners of the Ligue 1 (assuming that they win it this season also). Here, PSG bowed out 4 times in the quarter-final stage & 3 times in the Round of 16 stage. Out of these, there were 3 instances where the team failed to reach the next round, even after winning the 1st leg of the knockout round, most notably the Barcelona Remontada of the 16-17 season.

FC Barcelona v Paris Saint-Germain - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: Second Leg
FC Barcelona v Paris Saint-Germain - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: Second Leg

One can attribute the above to mainly 2 reasons -

Players' psychology - PSG are undoubtedly the most successful team in Ligue 1. Players have a habit of winning almost each & every game, without even facing stiff competition from the opponents.

This is exactly what causes them to stutter in the knock out round of the Champions League. Players are almost clueless on how to deal with high-pressure situations.

It once again exemplifies the need for experience in playing Champions League football. Only teams who have dealt with similar demanding situations in the past have what it takes to qualify to the next round.

Bad coaching decisions - PSG have had 27 different managers since their inception in 1970. Out of them, only 2 managers had the experience of winning the Champions League with their respective teams before managing PSG, most notably - Carlo Ancelotti.

In recent times, the managers were at as much fault as the players which caused PSG to crash out of the Champions League.

In the Barcelona Remontada of the 16-17 season, Unai Emery was guilty of having a poorly organized defense, that gave away vital penalties to Barcelona. Moreover, he fielded Di Maria very late in the game (55th minute), who could have boosted the midfield prowess of PSG from a very early stage & even had the experience of playing in the daunting Camp Nou stadium for 4 years, with Real Madrid.

Even on Wednesday's game against Manchester United, PSG manager Thomas Tuchel has been guilty of taking the United's injury-plagued side too lightly, that ultimately led to the disastrous loss for PSG, despite keeping 73% possession in the entire game. It took almost the entire game (95th minute) for the PSG manager to bring on his most experienced goal scorer, Edison Cavani to the pitch.


Both the above examples clearly reinstate the fact that quick thinking, as well as the ability to handle pressure, by both players & managers alike, are very important in order to win a Champions League match, especially in the knockout stage.

This brings the end of this article. On a concluding note, one might say that PSG are a brilliant team, but winning the Champions League requires something that even money can't buy - experience and legacy.

Published 10 Mar 2019, 23:09 IST
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