PSG's Domestic Woes Can Be Tied to Failures of Past French Dynasties
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As the PSG project continues to move forward in search of achieving ownership's lofty goals, there have been more questions than answers. Even with vastly superior talent on paper, PSG have struggled to take Ligue 1 by the neck as everyone had expected.
With today's loss to Nice, things are getting worse.
The inevitable era of PSG dominance has fallen short of expectations to this point. The reasons for this can be debated from a question of players, tactics or even leadership. Everyone has and is entitled to their opinion about their form in Ligue 1.
I personally feel the main reason behind PSG's domestic struggles can be found by taking a look at some of the French dynasties that came before them.
Stade de Reims was the first French team that was widely considered a dynasty. From the late 1940s to the early 1960s, Reims owned French football. They were also highly successful in Europe, with only Real Madrid standing between them and being champions of Europe.
The core players of the great Reims squads made up the bulk of the French national teams in the late '50s. Just Fontaine and Raymond Kopa were the stars for both Reims and France during that time.
An early retirement by Fontaine and age catching up to Kopa saw Reims fall from the top of French football.
Saint-Etienne quickly stepped into the void Reims left. Beginning in 1964 through 1976, Saint-Etienne won eight Ligue 1 titles. In 1976, Saint-Etienne fell to Bayern Munich in the European final in a game they came agonizingly close to winning.
Following the loss to Bayern, the club focus turned to capturing the European title. Michel Platini was signed as what was thought to be the piece that would put them over the top, but his three years with ASSE ended with a single league title in 1981—the club's last to date.
In 1982, a financial scandal broke involving club president Roger Rochet and other directors. In their quest for further glory, Saint-Etienne had been using a slush fund to pay extra to certain players from 1977-1982.
The club fell quickly from the fallout and have struggled to return to the top of Ligue 1.
Olympique Marseille saw the most fruitful time in club history from the late 1980s through the early 1990s. Led by Papin, Abedi Pele and a host of stars, Marseille ruled France. They also became a threat on the European stage.
In 1993, Marseille beat AC Milan to become the first French club to win Europe. It came at a price, as it was later uncovered that club president Bernard Tapie had been involved in paying off players of Valenciennes to allow Marseille to win without wearing down or injuring his players prior to the match with AC Milan.
Marseille was stripped of their domestic title and relegated. The effect of the scandal took Marseille nearly 15 years to overcome.
Olympique Lyon rose to the Ligue 1 mountaintop in 2001 and remained there through 2008. Their run of seven consecutive Ligue 1 titles was fueled by a tremendous youth academy and an influx of role players and economical buys.
Lyon saw the end of their reign begin when they started to shell out large sums of money for top-level players as they chased the elusive Champions League title.
The lesson I believe PSG needs to learn here is that the great dynasties of French football's past (outside of Reims) were felled on the domestic front by shifting their focus to the European stage.
When teams' main focus is outside of the domestic side, it allows for the slip-ups that cause points to be lost. These dropped points cause a team to have to fight that much harder later in the season to maintain position in a European spot.
It also gives the less talented teams confidence, and as we saw last season, an inspired group of players who perform together can overcome a more talented club.
All is not lost for PSG, but they are now faced with having to chase down a very good Lyon team while also contending with four or five other clubs who are sitting within a point or two of PSG. When a team has to play that many games domestically that are of extreme importance to the table, the effect takes its toll, lessening the chance of European success.
The lesson PSG can learn from the past Reims dynasty was the need for French players in the squad. PSG's lack of French-born players lends to the domestic campaign not being taken as seriously as it needs to be.
The Reims (and other dynasties that followed) were built around mostly French talent. It was important for these players to win their home league. At PSG, that importance seems to be lost.
It is easy to sit where I do and play sports psychologist, but the bottom line is PSG needs to refocus on taking care of business in France and let European success be gravy at this point. That focus begins with ownership and must be passed down.
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