Soccer-Neymar can't be the only one take the blame for PSG's failure

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Julien Pretot
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By Julien Pretot

PARIS (Reuters) - In four Champions League campaigns with Paris St Germain, Neymar has been criticised for his performance in knockout ties, but he is far from being the only one to blame for the his team's failure to succeed.

The Brazil forward, who joined from Barcelona for a record 222-million euros ($266.36 million), has only scored twice in the 15 knockout games PSG have played in the last four seasons, missing five of them through injury.

He produced a convincing performance in the first leg of their semi-final against Manchester City last week but lacked efficiency in front of goal. He then failed to impress in the return leg on Tuesday, which PSG lost 2-0 for an aggregate 4-1 defeat.

In the absence of the injured Kylian Mbappe, he struggled to connect with striker Mauro Icardi, wandering all over the pitch as he tried to take the matter in his own hands.

While the French champions have shed their reputation as chokers after reaching the final last season and the last four this year by knocking out Barcelona and holders Bayern Munich, their lack of composure and questionable recruitment policy need to be addressed if they are to finally win the competition.

Tuesday's game at the Etihad stadium showed that PSG are too dependent on the form of Mbappe and Neymar and are missing some top players in key positions.

Full backs Alessandro Florenzi and Abdou Diallo were overwhelmed by City, especially the Italian who was nowhere near where he should have been when Riyad Mahrez went on to score his first goal and lost the ball that led to the Algerian's second.

In the last two years, PSG have failed to attract world class players, apart from keeper Keylor Navas, while losing the likes of defender Thiago Silva, now a team leader at Chelsea, and striker Edinson Cavani who is having a decent season at Manchester United.

Both were in Thomas Tuchel's plans for the season and the German criticised the club's recruitment's policy last October, which eventually led to his departure during the winter break amid disagreements with sports director Leonardo.

Tuchel has since led Chelsea to the semi-finals of the Champions League - after taking PSG to the final last season - where they face Real Madrid in the return leg on Wednesday after a 1-1 draw at Santiago Bernabeu.

The club, however, evaded the debate after Tuesday's elimination.

"We cannot forget what we've done in the last two years," Leonardo said.

"We went to the final and lost 1-0 to a team (Bayern) who has won everything. It is true that we've had highs and lows this year but we've claimed important victories against Manchester United, Barcelona and Bayern."

PSG now need to focus on domestic duties if Mauricio Pochettino wants to avoid becoming the first coach since 2012 to end a season without a major title, having won the French Super Cup in January.

They play a French Cup semi-final against Montpellier next week, with a potential final clash against Monaco, and lie second in Ligue 1, one point behind Lille with three games left.

($1 = 0.8335 euros)

(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Christian Radnedge)