Paris (AFP) – Defeat by Manchester City in the Champions League could mean the exit of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and his exalted generation at Paris Saint-Germain.
Qatar Sports Investments have spent heavily at the French club to win the Champions League. Under Laurent Blanc they have won four straight French titles but now have become the first team to lose in four straight Champions League quarter finals.
“We are very disappointed with the result,” said a visibly drained Paris president Nasser al-Khelaifi in a warning after the 1-0 defeat at Manchester on Tuesday which saw a 3-2 aggregate defeat.
“It’s the fourth time we reach the quarter-finals and are eliminated. Now we have to take a step back and analyse what has happened.”
Ibrahimovic, 34, is out of contract at the end of the season. The Swedish superstar, who has never won a Champions League, has already been linked to a move to the English Premier League.
Al-Khelaifi said last month he wants Ibrahimovic to stay. But a summer rebuilding exercise could prove a game changer.
Brazilian defender Maxwell is also 34 and with no deal after June. Brazilian-born Italian Thiago Motto is 33 and also coming to the end of his contract, like Dutch right back Gregory van der Wiel.
Paris have the means and the desire to sign a new superstar, with Barcelona’s Brazilian scorer Neymar apparently on their wish-list. Al-Khelaifi will surely be tempted to add new faces while keeping the likes of Angel di Maria, Thiago Silva and Marco Verratti.
The other question mark surrounds Blanc, who has a contract until 2018 but has the Champions League failures hanging over his record.
“The future? We have a season to finish. We have a French Cup semi-final to try to win and a League Cup final to win,” Blanc said.
“I know that doesn’t have the same flavour, the same excitement as the Champions League but we owe it to ourselves to win them for the club.
“We are very disappointed but we will have to get over it.”
Blanc was in the firing line after abandoning his usual 4-3-3 formation to play with three central defenders for the first half against City.
It was a gamble that backfired and one that followed a disappointing performance in the first leg at the Parc des Princes.
“What a fiasco” screamed the front page headline on sports daily L’Equipe as the search for someone to blame began.
Former French international David Ginola said on BT Sport television that Paris were “lazy” against Manchester City and he doubted whether Blanc would still be in charge for the 2016-17 season.
Blanc said “City are a very, very good team and we need to congratulate them, but I think we can be disappointed because we could and should have done better.”
“In the first half we played with a new system and what happened, happened,” said Ibrahimovic who saw City goalkeeper Joe Hart brilliantly save two of his free kicks.
“If it had gone well, nobody would say anything, and now people will say we gave it away. The second half was better, when we reverted to our normal tactics, but we gave away two games.”
From a French viewpoint, the Paris performance leaves a sense of deja vu.
Twelve times in the last 13 seasons a French side has appeared in the Champions League quarter-finals, and only twice have they gone further.
One was Monaco in 2004 while the other was Lyon, semi-finalists in 2010.