Domestic Bliss Eases European Pain for PSG

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Paris Saint-Germain have spent vast sums over the last three years building a squad of international superstars, but a goal scored by a Paris-born striker will be remembered as the defining moment of their season.

That goal, though, was scored by PSG fan Demba Ba for Chelsea three minutes from the end of the Champions League quarterfinal second-leg tie between the clubs and it took the English side into the last four on away goals.

For the second season running, PSG fell just short when they stood on the brink of a place in the Champions League semifinals, having been beaten by Barcelona, also on away goals, 12 months earlier.

But this season can still go down as the best in the club’s history after they won their fourth French title, and second in a row, on Wednesday, having also lifted the League Cup by beating Lyon in the final at the Stade de France last month.

Progress has been made since Laurent Blanc replaced Real Madrid-bound Carlo Ancelotti in the dugout last summer, and PSG are on the verge of setting a new Ligue 1 record points tally, currently standing just one short of the previous best of 84 set by Lyon in 2006.

They have also already set a new record for the most goals scored in a French top-flight season, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic, having scored 40 goals in all competitions this season, beating the previous individual club best of 39 set by Carlos Bianchi in 1978.

They are a more fluent, more cohesive side than 12 months ago, and Blanc deserves credit for the job he has done, especially as PSG were a club in turmoil when he took over last summer following the departure of Ancelotti to Real Madrid and the resignation of sporting director Leonardo, combined with the threatening emergence of big-spending Monaco.

Blanc could scarcely have been further down the club’s list of targets for the job and yet he wasted little time in finding a winning formula, settling on a 4-3-3 formation that brought the best out of the midfield trio of Thiago Motta, Marco Verratti and Blaise Matuidi, even if it partly meant sacrificing record signing Edinson Cavani.

The Uruguayan has had to settle for a role out on the flank with Ibrahimovic still the undisputed star of the side, but Cavani has still delivered 16 league goals, while also scoring a brace in the 2-1 League Cup final triumph over Lyon.

In the aftermath of the defeat to Chelsea, some doubts were raised about Blanc’s suitability to lead the club on to the next level, although he has been offered an extension to his existing contract, which expires in 2015.

Blanc has not yet put pen to paper, but that is surely only a matter of time now following the clinching of the first league and cup double in the club’s history, to which can be added their victory in the season-opening Champions Trophy.

As deep as the disappointment of exiting the Champions League was, the club’s owners Qatar Sports Investments did initially set a timescale of five years to win the competition, although the specter of punishments from UEFA in relation to their Financial Fair Play rules may set them back a little further.

“I get the impression that the Champions League is all that matters. We are making winning the French title, a national Cup and the Champions Trophy banal,” said Blanc recently, complaining that their domestic success was being “devalued”.

Chelsea reached the last eight or further in the Champions League seven times in 12 seasons before finally winning the trophy in 2012, while Abu Dhabi-owned Manchester City have yet to go beyond the last 16 in three attempts.

Those experiences suggest that PSG will have to be patient before conquering Europe, all the more so now with the prospect of UEFA sanctions hanging over the Parc des Princes, but for now they can at least take some satisfaction from the fact that they reign supreme at home.

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