PSG and Spurs: Soulmates in failure, companions in incompetence, Europe’s greatest losers

PSG forward Kylian Mbappe Credit: Alamy
PSG forward Kylian Mbappe Credit: Alamy

The powerful history of the Tottenham and a losing culture carefully constructed at PSG came together in a beautiful evening of Champions League failure.


It is impossible to conceive two more heritage-fuelled, introspection-demanding, pathetic but ultimately inevitable simultaneous Champions League exits. Tottenham and Paris Saint-Germain, perennial pretenders in Europe’s VIP section, did not manage a single goal between them in being dumped out of the competition by continental royalty.

Both will part with their managers at the end of mutually miserable seasons. Both will continue the process of ultimate failure this summer. Neither will learn from the innumerable mistakes they have made to find themselves locked in that risible cycle.

Tottenham’s surrender to AC Milan was crushingly predictable. Harry Kane completed the first season of his Champions League career without a non-penalty goal. Cristian Romero fulfilled his manifest destiny. Supporters cursed the introduction of a centre-half for a forward as the hosts’ forlorn search for a decisive goal in the closing stages amounted to a quick check down the side of the sofa and a collective shrug of the shoulders. Antonio Conte returned to the touchline and was not alone in wondering why he bothered.

“My contract expires in June,” said the Italian after the game. “We will see – they might sack me even before the end of the season, who knows,” he added, struggling to mask his excitement at the mere prospect.

Conte likely shares the opinion from one of his own players that this season been “sh*t” on a more granular level. Tottenham are fourth in the Premier League but the games in hand possessed by the two teams directly below them muddy those waters somewhat. They have not managed three consecutive league wins all season. The serial winner has presided over a hat-trick of goalless tournament departures, the other two of which were against Nottingham Forest and Sheffield United. Their seven first-team signings this season have come at a cost of around £160m, not to mention the £60m worth of options on making Dejan Kulusevski and Arnaut Danjuma’s loans permanent and the £39.7m due to Sporting this summer for Pedro Porro.

Another manager will inherit another mess of a squad soon.

Apropos of everything, Paris Saint-Germain’s submission to Bayern Munich was reassuringly routine. Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi scored five goals between them in a preposterous World Cup final 80 days prior, but were powerless as Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting – signed by the German champions for free from the French giants in 2020 – and PSG academy reject Kingsley Coman put them out at the last-16 stage for the fifth time in seven seasons.

“It’s really too early to talk about it,” claimed Christophe Galtier, fooling no-one into believing his superiors won’t already have had those annual discussions and made up their minds. “It obviously depends on the management and my president. There’s a disappointment. The club had a lot of hopes for this competition,” he continued, rather downplaying the unfiltered obsession QSI has had over the Champions League since purchasing PSG in 2011.

Galtier surely agrees with Mbappe‘s assessment that “this is the maximum we can do” – a damning indictment from Europe’s highest-paid footballer and the second-most expensive player in history. For all the money thrown at this squad, their attacking strategy was reduced to lumping it long for Sergio Ramos, the 36-year-old centre-half they signed as a free agent.

Not even he, the 180-cap Spain international, five-time world and six-time European champion for club and country, and winner of 27 trophies in an illustrious career, could override the losing culture at PSG, much like no-one has proven capable of rewriting the history of the Tottenham. They are brothers in flailing arms, fated to forever stamp on and stumble over each other’s feet in the dance of incompetence. And Wednesday evening was a dual achievement in awfulness.

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