No Ibrahimovic but PSG primed to continue to rule in France
PARIS – Paris St Germain begin a less glamorous chapter of their Qatari-owned era following the departure of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but they could be more even more lethal as a collective unit in their bid for a fifth successive Ligue 1 title.
For all their domestic dominance, PSG, backed by Qatar Sports Investment (QSI) since 2011, have failed to go past the last eight in the Champions League but they might now be better equipped to shine in Europe too.
Coach Laurent Blanc has been replaced by Basque Unai Emery, who led Sevilla to three Europa League titles, while former Dutch striker Patrick Kluivert is the club’s new sporting director.
“The most important thing is to become a candidate to win the Champions League, it’s a clear objective but we must not forget Ligue 1 and the Cups,” Emery said.
PSG won both the League and both French Cups in the last two seasons.
They might have lost Ibrahimovic’s scoring prowess, but they secured the services French prodigy Hatem Ben Arfa, as well as Real Madrid grown Jese.
The capital club spent 67 million euros ($74.7 million) on transfers, a relatively low amount compared to previous years, but they will bank on their collective strength having also recruited Poland midfielder Grzegorz Krychowiak and Belgium full back Thomas Meunier.
“(Ibrahimovic’s departure) will help several players to grow stronger,” Metz defender Franck Signorino told L’Equipe.
Uruguay striker Edinson Cavani will take on the role of central striker, but Jese or Ben Arfa could also deputise having showed decent scoring credentials in that position.
Ben Arfa is likely to start at number nine in Friday’s season opener at Bastia as Cavani picked up a thigh injury in a 4-1 win against Olympique Lyonnais in last weekend’s Trophy of Champions — a result that indicated PSG’s rivals are highly likely to be fighting for second place again.
Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas told French media that PSG should not be allowed to benefit from State help from Qatar.
“It’s unfair competition,” he said, referring to the fact that Lyon finished runners-up to PSG last season, 31 points adrift. “It’s not normal that 19 of the 20 teams have no chance of winning (the league.”
Lyon, who have been banking on home-grown players, will be favourites to come second again, with Monaco the most likely side to challenge them. The principality team will be relying on Colombia striker Falcao, who is returning after a disappointing loan spells at Manchester United and Chelsea.
Monaco will be without the injured Falcao as well as suspended Valere Germain and injured new signing Vagner Love for their season opener against Guingamp on Friday. A tribute will be paid to the victims of the Bastille Day Nice attack ahead of Sunday’s game between Nice and Stade Rennais at the Allianz Riviera. -Reuters