With the players out on the field awaiting kick-off, Neymar and Lionel Messi were among those jeered by the crowd as the team lineups were read out. But Kylian Mbappe was spared the jeers and whistles on Sunday as his illustrious team-mates were on the receiving end of vociferous fan protests
Revolution is brewing in Paris.
Five days after watching their side disintegrate in the Champions League last 16 against Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain’s supporters made it clear that they have finally had enough.
As their side took another step along the procession that is their walk to the Ligue 1 title by beating Bordeaux 3-0 on Sunday, Parc des Princes turned into a bear pit.
During the game, the PSG team was taunted remorselessly by their own Ultras, with Bordeaux passes given ‘oles’.
Perhaps most embarrassingly of all, Neymar was booed as he celebrated scoring the second goal.
It would be a mistake to interpret this jeering as spoiled supporters angry at their team’s failure to progress in the Champions League.
No, they were jeering the manner of their exit and, more broadly, the culture that has been fostered around the club for years.
Neymar is inevitably at the forefront of this, having endured a season that has been of a catastrophically impoverished standard.
RMC pundit Daniel Riolo said: “We have not only let this player rot, we have turned him into a monster. Neymar has become a monster who, moreover, is no longer even a footballer.
“Do you realise what he stands for? The highest salary in the club’s history, the man who was supposed to take PSG to the top….
“Today, this player is hated everywhere. His attitude, his moods, everything he does, you can’t be a player and be hated so much, you can’t. There has never been a player as hated as him.”
PSG are now reportedly willing to offload Neymar less than a year after he signed a fresh four-year deal, yet takers are sure to be thin on the ground given his astronomical salary.
Meanwhile, there is the Messi problem.
The Argentine has played better for PSG than he has been given credit for, particularly in 2022, but the optics are poor. His lacklustre figures are not helped by his attitude towards defending, which is magnified now that he is a front three comprising two equally reluctant defenders.
“Those responsible for the defeat, for me, are Neymar and Messi,” former PSG and France star Jerome Rothen told RMC after the Real Madrid loss.
“When Leonardo signed them, he put them up on a pedestal for us: they are legends, they have their status and they are paid for it.
“I’m not attacking Marco Verratti, Danilo, Leandro Paredes or Mbappe. I’m going after the other two, the two mercenaries.
“I’m afraid to talk about Messi as a fraud, but it’s the reality. Yesterday, he walked around the pitch. Luka Modric had him in his pocket.”
But the issues that PSG are facing are not just on field, and that is perhaps why the weekend’s protests were so potent and meaningful.
The whole structure of the club is under attack. And it is long overdue.
Sporting director Leonardo long escaped criticism, despite a persistently disconnected transfer policy. Ultimately, the responsibility for a squad that is so unwieldy, yet also so incredibly imbalanced, is down to the Brazilian.
Last summer’s transfer campaign seemed to be based more around signing big names than addressing issues in the squad. Messi, Georginio Wijnaldum and Sergio Ramos have all been flops.
Head coach Mauricio Pochettino has been left with a squad that was tactically unworkable, and, while he might certainly have found some more effective solutions, is less culpable for this mess than those above him.
Even president Nasser Al-Khelaifi, who has typically enjoyed a serene decade in charge of the club, is now subject to vociferous protests against him.
After all, it is Al-Khelaifi who has allowed Leonardo’s laissez-faire approach to dealing with the capriciousness of Neymar and the club’s other stars to become endemic.
In 2020, Belgium international right-back Thomas Meunier told RTBF: “When I was at Club Brugge, we’d celebrate birthdays by playing darts or pool in a bar, but at PSG it’s just outrageous.
“But that just reflects the club: hire a palace, hire a building, parties with hundreds of people. That’s when you see that they’re more than footballers; they’re stars.
“I always had a good time but it was all a bit extravagant and ‘did you see me?’ But that’s part of it, part of the game.”
Things have not changed. In fact, it only seems to have become worse.
Behind the scenes, too, the foundations of the clubs have never looked so shaky since QSI took over in 2011.
Al-Khelaifi is facing the possibility of a two-year prison sentence over a World Cup TV rights deal, while even the footballing interest of PSG’s Qatari owners is in doubt.
With the World Cup set to take place in the tiny state in November and December later this year, the need for a flagship club will dramatically diminish.
Already they have started cutting back on projects such as the Aspire Academy of sporting excellence, and there is speculation that the investment in PSG could be reduced or perhaps even end.
PSG fans, then, have plenty to concern them, and in many ways the defeat to Real Madrid is the least of their worries. And don’t they just know it.