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PSG: Decline, Survival, and Revival

Dayann C. writes to acquaint us with the history of PSG, one of France’s largest and most famous clubs.

Editor’s note: This is the second part of a two part series. You can find the first part here.

Pauleta 2016

The first decade of the 21st century was a mercurial period for PSG, with the club witnessing some great players wear the shirt, several further additions to the domestic cup tally, and never more than one season without European football but only two top 3 finishes in the league. To add further woe, the club finished in the bottom half of the league 4 times, including the closest of shaves to relegation in 2007-08, where survival was only secured on the final day of the season. The start of the century hailed a second place finish in the league (99-00 season) and brought about Champions League football the following season. But that European venture did not yield the success of yesteryear; although PSG made it to the second group stage, the campaign is probably most remembered for a famous 4-3 comeback win from Deportivo La Coruna against PSG. This overshadowed the fact that PSG were one of only two teams to beat the eventual champions Bayern Munich during the tournament, the other being Lyon. The result against the Germans meant PSG’s record against the Bavarians stood at 4 wins, including one away victory and 2 losses, both in Germany. The other fond memory from this edition was a critical 7-2 victory over Rosenborg in Paris during the first group stage.

The following two seasons saw round three exits for PSG in Europe accompanied by 4th and 11th place finishes in the league. Despite the likes of Anelka, Jay-Jay Okocha, Mauricio Pochettino, Gabriel Heinze and Ronaldhino featuring in the team, the club could not finish high enough to qualify for the Champions League and fell by the wayside to two late goals from Auxerre in the 2002-03 French Cup. Ronaldhino was the shining light, overcoming rifts with the popular manager Luis Fernandez to dazzle supporters and become a fan favourite. What most endeared him to the fans were the three goals he scored in both league fixtures, and general performance against rivals Marseille, with both matches ending 3-0 in PSG’s favour. The triumphs against Marseille at the Velodrome that season were the first away wins against them in over a decade. A quick scour of Ronaldhino’s countless highlight reels would indicate that his best PSG performances were against the ‘bigger’ teams. Regardless of this, the lack of Champions League meant the loss of the team’s marquee players. Ronaldhino’s departure paved the way however, for a new fan favourite, Pedro Miguel Pauleta.

The 2003-04 season was a surprisingly overachieving one for the club, considering the context. PSG finished second to the dominant Lyon by three points under new manager Vahid Halilhodžić as well as ending a six year trophy drought with a 1-0 French Cup final win, thanks to a goal from Pauleta. The following Champions League tournament saw an early exit, but not before a victory against reigning champions Porto, which included a wonderfully improvised scorpion kick goal from Coridon. Domestically, a penalty shootout defeat to Lyon in the season opening Trophée des Champions match was followed by a disappointing 9th place finish. The 2005-06 season saw a slight improvement with players settling in and victory in the French Cup final against Marseille, a self-worked Vikash Dhorasoo strike settling the encounter prior to France’s long run in the World Cup.

Players such as Sylvain Armand, ‘Super Mario’ Yepes and PSG fan Jérôme Rothen helped bolster the squad behind Pauleta and would go on to serve the club honourably in tough times. Pauleta top scored for the club during five league seasons, including topping the charts in the entire league for two of those seasons. Poor league seasons contrasted greatly with good cup performances, exemplified most potently by the 2007-08 season. A dreadful season in the league, which went winless at home for the first half, required two goals from Amara Diané to secure a victory and survival on the final day, preventing PSG’s first relegation ever. Considering the club was 18th with two games remaining, this was definitely the darkest period of the club’s history. Despite this, PSG reached the French Cup final, losing in extra time to Lyon and won the Coupe de la Ligue final against Lens 2-1 thanks to a 93rd minute penalty from Mendy, with a team consisting of players such as Mikaël Landreau, a young Mamadou Sakho, Marcos Ceará, Zoumana Camara and Clément Chantôme amongst some of the previously mentioned players.

The next three seasons, those prior to the QIA takeover, were dogged with inconsistency. The great Pauleta, l’Aigle des Açores as he was affectionately known for his celebration, had retired at the end of the 2008 season with 109 goals in 212 games for the club, the record holder at the time. He also retired as the topscorer for his country, Portugal, with 47 goals in 88 games, overhauling the great Eusébio’s tally and cementing his talismanic qualities. His loss was a major one, but the squad welcomed the arrival of some experienced players, namely Ludovic Guily, Claude Makélélé and Grégory Coupet. The further addition of Guillaume Hoarau, who top scored in his first season meant a 6th place finish in 2008-09. A brace away to Marseille in Le Classique contributed to his tally. PSG also put in a good showing in the UEFA Cup, reaching the quarter finals. This included a dramatic 4-0 win over FC Twente to progress from the group stage. The following season would see a disappointing relapse in league form as PSG finished 13th, but courtesy of an extra time Hoarau goal, the club won its 8th French Cup. Going into the 2010-11 season, Jérôme Rothen would leave the club, having contributed 52 goals in 180 games for the club and being a key component in keeping the club in the premier division. With former player Kombouaré at the helm and replacements such as Nenê filling the squad, the club saw an upturn in form, with an agonising 4th place finish in Ligue 1, four points off Champions League qualification, and deep ventures in both domestic cups.


The club would end up being brought Qatari Sports Investment in the summer of 2011 and with it came a whole host of new players such as Blaise Matuidi, Kévin Gameiro, Jérémy Ménez and flagship signing Javier Pastore. Early cup exits and a poor showing in the Europa League meant Kombouaré’s replacement, untimely considering PSG were top of the league at the time. Although Carlo Ancelotti started off blisteringly well, PSG would end up finishing second to Montpellier, but it did spell a return for Europe’s elite club competition to the Parc des Princes. Further high profile acquisitions meant a very strong first season back in the Champions League, as PSG topped a group containing Porto and would go on to draw home and away to Barcelona in the quarters, exiting on away goals. In the league, the 19 year drought for a title was ended. Ancelotti’s departure for Real Madrid in the summer of 2013 left the club in an unbridled managerial saga, with unfavoured Laurent Blanc picking up the pieces. But a fantastic few seasons all round ended with three further league titles, league cups and Trophée des Champions as well as two French Cups. This was accommodated with three consecutive quarterfinal exits in the Champions League, which was ultimately Blanc’s demise in an incredibly decorated tenure. Thanks to the vast financial backing in recent years, PSG has re-established itself as upon the precipice of Europe’s top table. This brings us to the current season and whilst writing history in today’s game, PSG has many fond chapters of memories upon which it has built its name. Unai Emery’s team will now embark on the club’s next chapter.

Dayann C

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