Kylian Mbappe scored twice over both legs of Paris Saint-Germain’s UEFA Champions League round of 16 tie with Real Madrid and it was still not enough to avoid a humiliating exit as the French giants crashed out 3-2 on aggregate after losing 3-1 on the Wednesday at Santiago Bernabeu.
The 23-year-old could not have done much more to take his team through as he also saw two goals ruled out in the Spanish capital, yet Mauricio Pochettino’s men still contrived to blow a two-goal aggregate lead heading into the final 30 minutes of the tie.
Mbappe was the subject of pre-match conjecture as he picked up a knock in training on the Monday and pulled through to play and ended up starring for the first hour before fellow France international Karim Benzema put him in the shade. Such is Mbappe’s unique position in the game (and perhaps in the future of Real Madrid) that he was even afforded a pre-game ovation.
The possibility that PSG’s No. 7 moves to Real now moves closer to becoming a reality. This latest European embarrassment spelled out that the Ligue 1 leaders are still well short of being ready to win the Champions League.
Can Mbappe afford to wait around to find out if the French capital outfit can remedy those issues over the summer? Unlikely. PSG’s problems appear to be rooted away from the pitch where they boast arguably as complete a squad as any of their UCL rivals. The only solution is a deep cleanse.
Despite the experience garnered over the past two editions, when they reached the final in 2019-20 before losing to Bayern Munich and then falling short against Manchester City last season in the semifinals, PSG are regressing once more and the signs have been there for months now.
Pochettino’s time in charge has been an utter failure and Mbappe will recognize this more than most given that the Argentine has overseen the final 18 months of his stay in Paris and put paid to his hopes of winning the first Champions League title for the club.
There was a moment where PSG looked justified in turning down Real’s millions last summer to keep Mbappe on and while the club’s standpoint will not have changed, the player probably might not have so few regrets given that he might now see Real go all the way to the final recently relocated to Stade de France.
The man from Bondy should not go too hard on himself given that he has been dragging this team often over the past few months and pretty much for the entirety of Pochettino’s spell in charge, but he can equally question if he can really give anything more to succeed.
If Mbappe decides to remain with PSG for another year or two, which must be a remote chance at this time given how this loss has killed the season, he will likely overtake Edinson Cavani as top scorer. Will the necessary changes be made to aid UCL success, though?
Zinedine Zidane and Arsene Wenger have been touted as a potential double act to come in for Pochettino and under-fire sporting director Leonardo, but how long would it take the French pair or any others to implement the mentality change which is so badly needed?
Too long for Mbappe to wait around and find out is probably the closest answer to the truth right now as he has seen this all before and made it clear he wanted no part in another disappointment back in 2019 when he famously declared himself hungry for responsibility at the Ligue 1 awards.
Lionel Messi has come in and barely made a mark alongside Mbappe, Sergio Ramos can barely get onto the pitch let alone influence the dressing room like he did with Real, and Neymar has looked a shadow of his former self for at least a year now.
There is no real way to spin PSG’s situation positively given how long they have been capable of winning the Champions League and now their Qatari owners have missed their shot at having their team be titleholders going into World Cup year.
Mbappe could stick around until the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris and sign off from his time in France with a potential gold medal, but who knows what the two years between now and then will look like for PSG.
At least Mbappe is no longer obliged to put any thought of his future to the back of his mind given that the team should not be blowing a 13-point lead in Le Championnat with no other domestic interests to chase.
The time has come for the French superstar’s decision moment and PSG can no longer expect it to end with a contract extension, no matter how short term a deal they may be prepared to accept — Mbappe’s time with his childhood club may well have run its course.