It is said that a craving is an itch that is rarely satisfied. When we get our wish, we crave even more and the cycle repeats.
So where does that leave Paris Saint Germain (PSG) and their unrequited lust for the Champions League?
They can have no complaints about their narrow 1-0 defeat to Bayern Munich in Sunday’s final – Bayern were superior in every department.
But it leaves PSG and their Qatari owners craving even more. They’ve spent over €1 billion on players yet in eight attempts to land club football’s Holy Grail, yet it still eludes them.
With respect to German club who now join Liverpool (6), AC Milan (7) and Real Madrid (13) at the top table of European royalty with six or more trophies, the real story of this final is still more about the serial losers than the serial winners.
We know all about Bayern, the all-too-formidable foes in Europe and all-too-frequent kings in Germany.
They’re a proper club, were founded in 1900, are 50+1% owned by the fans, have been run by former greats like Franz Beckenbauer, Uli Hoeness and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. They’re always there or thereabouts.
What would PSG give for such consistency? Such history? Such a football soul? What would they give to just be allowed through the door at this exclusive club of winners?
Well, they’ve given billions already and it’s still not enough. Until this season, they weren’t even close. Since Qatar Sports Investments took over in 2011, they’ve taken part eight times, and this was the first time they had got past the quarterfinals.
The last three seasons they didn’t make it past the last 16, but it was the way they found to lose that made them a laughing stock.
In 2017, they won the first leg 4-0 against Barcelona, but caved in to lose 6-1 in the return, three goals coming after the 88th minute. And their chief tormentor?
None other than Brazilian superstar, Neymar, whom they promptly bought for a world record €222m – deliberately inflating the price, it is claimed, to blow everyone else out of the water.
They then added Kylian Mbappe for €200m. But still they found implausible ways to lose – most notably to a less-than-vintage Manchester United last year after winning the first leg 2-0 at Old Trafford.
Right from the outset, the owners’ response to defeat was predictable: to reach for the axe and the cheque book – sacking managers Laurent Blanc, Carlo Ancelotti and Unai Emery and bringing in big-name players.
Stellar early arrivals were Edinson Cavani and Thiago Silva, then Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marco Verratti, before they got really desperate and made their €400m plus double swoop three seasons ago.
But they’ve never been able to transfer their domestic dominance to the European stage. Formed as recently as 1970 and financially doped in 2011, they were seen as Johnny-come-latelies, a false, political tool of a foreign power. A club without a soul.
And as the owners were accused of trying to buy success, many players were blamed for seeking only to top up their pensions. It was a formula destined to fail.
It looked that way as recently as the 88th minute of the quarterfinal against Italian underdogs, Atalanta. Hailing from Bergamo, the small town that was devastated by the Covid-19 outbreak, the Italians had the world on their side even before it was found that Neymar’s salary was comfortably more than what their entire team earned.
Atalanta led 1-0 but couldn’t hang on and PSG did what they usually had done to them – scoring two late goals to save themselves from their greatest embarrassment yet.
A comfortable semifinal win over RB Leipzig made them think that finally this might be their year. But in Lisbon’s Stadium of Light they met a superior German side whose high-press stifled PSG’s main threat.
Rubbing salt into their wounds, the winner was scored by the only Parisian on the field – Kingsley Coman who joined PSG’s academy as an eight-year-old and was allowed to leave as a teenager. There were too many big names blocking his path.
Full credit goes to Bayern boss Hansi Flick who controversially chose Coman over Ivan Perisic who had starred in the 8-2 rout of Barcelona.
Flick only took over the reins in November from Nico Kovac and promptly turned the then-stuttering giants around. Under him, they have won 32 of 36 games in all competitions.
Not only have Bayern won the coveted trophy again but appear to have stumbled on a top manager too.
Whether his counterpart and compatriot, Thomas Tuchel, will survive will depend on how badly the Qataris take their latest setback.
And after this never-ending season finally came to a halt, they won’t have much time to decide before it – and the craving cycle – starts all over again. At least they can say they are getting closer.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.