Paris Saint-Germain started its previous Champions League campaign with a team featuring Lionel Messi and Neymar and a win over Juventus.
The two football greats didn't score that night and PSG later was eliminated from Europe's top competition in the last 16 for the fifth time in seven years. The premature exit, once again, highlighted the blatant failure of PSG's strategy of assembling star-studded teams without a real backbone.
However, its owners changed their master plan during the offseason and it’s a revamped PSG that takes on Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday as the group stage of the elite European tournament kicks off.
As usual, the French champions spent a lot of money on new recruits, but they no longer seem obsessed with the need for big names.
Taking part in the group stage for the 12th consecutive time, the PSG squad facing Dortmund on Tuesday is radically different from the one that was knocked out by Bayern Munich last season.
Up front, Marco Asensio joined from Real Madrid, Gonçalo Ramos arrived from Benfica and Randal Kolo Muani signed to possibly form an all-French attack alongside Kylian Mbappé and Ousmane Dembélé. PSG also transformed its midfield, hiring Kang-in Lee and Manuel Ugarte. At the back, Bayern Munich’s Lucas Hernandez was added, as well as Milan Skriniar.
In addition to Messi and Neymar's departures, Sergio Ramos and Marco Verratti have also left, while PSG switched to a 4-3-3 formation under new coach Luis Enrique, who does not have to bother with accommodating Neymar, Messi and Mbappé together.
The cash-rich Qatari investors, who took over in 2011, hope their new strategy will finally help them replicate the club’s domestic dominance on Europe’s biggest stage. And they also count on Enrique, who won the Champions League, Spanish league and Copa del Rey in his first season in charge when he coached Barcelona.
“You need ambition, but when you are obsessed with something it never works out, in any area of life,” Enrique said Monday when asked about PSG's craving for the Champions League. ”We are really hopeful. We want to go out and play, we want to please our fans, we want the tournament to kick off, but we are not obsessed."
But the new players have not gelled into a solid unit yet and Enrique's possession-based system has not yielded immediate results.
Over the weekend, PSG looked shaky and lacked attacking creativity as Skriniar and Dembele delivered below-par displays.
Enrique, however, said he was not troubled by the result.