PSG and French football prepare for challenges of post-Mbappe era

Paris Saint-Germain finished the season with a domestic double after beating Lyon in Saturday's French Cup final but will now start building for another assault on the Champions League next year, this time without Kylian Mbappe (25).

The France captain brought the curtain down on his seven-year spell at PSG in the 2-1 win over Lyon, in which he failed to add to his club-record tally of 256 goals as Ousmane Dembele and Fabian Ruiz netted on the night.

It was a deserved victory against a Lyon team who had been the best side in France in the second half of the season, after sitting bottom of the table in December.

But PSG's ongoing dominance of the French game simply reflects their crushing financial power compared to every other club.

Going by the most recent detailed accounts published by the DNCG, the watchdog that oversees the finances of France's professional clubs, PSG's income in 2022/23 was roughly equivalent to that of the next five richest sides - Marseille, Lyon, Monaco, Rennes and Lille - put together.

Their focus has long been on winning the Champions League, a trophy they have never managed to get their hands on over the years with Mbappe, Lionel Messi, Neymar, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and other superstars in their ranks.

And coach Luis Enrique knows how big a task lies ahead as they look to build a team that can enjoy the Champions League success they never managed to achieve with Mbappe.

Ligue 1 table
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"He is obviously a different player and we can't replace him with one single player. Forget it. There is no substitute for Kylian Mbappe," PSG's Spanish coach said after Saturday's final.

"We will need to replace him with the team as a whole, and with maybe four, five or six new signings."

'Great challenge'

Whether PSG move for one big star - think Victor Osimhen or Rafael Leao - remains to be seen, but they may wish to avoid the kind of approach taken by Barcelona when they lost Neymar in 2017, or Tottenham Hotspur when they sold Gareth Bale to Real Madrid.

Barcelona paid premium prices for several big names in an effort to replace the Brazilian, but most did not work out.

Spurs employed something of a scattergun approach with a host of signings making up for the loss of Bale - again the success of that strategy was limited.

"A great challenge for any player who might want to come here is that we want to make history," Luis Enrique added.

"This club will sooner or later win that long-desired Champions League title. It is difficult to win. It might take years but they will win it in the future without any doubt."

The Qatar-owned club are set to prepare for next season with a tour of China, where they will play Monaco in the French season-opening Champions Trophy in early August.

The new Ligue 1 season begins on August 16, with the Champions League kicking off in mid-September.

"This season is finishing but the negotiations and possibilities to improve the squad are already beginning," said Luis Enrique, who will also rely on remaining stars such as Dembele, Achraf Hakimi, Portuguese midfielder Vitinha and teenage sensation Warren Zaire-Emery.

"It is an impressive project when you consider what this club is capable of achieving," added the coach before contemplating a summer break which he plans to spend at home, watching some of Euro 2024 on television "with a beer or two".

What of the rest of French football?

Lyon will hope to build on their remarkable second half of the season under coach Pierre Sage, who is set to sign a new contract.

Marseille are searching for a new coach after a poor season in which they failed to qualify for Europe, while Monaco and surprise package Brest are looking forward to Champions League campaigns.

But the health of the league as a whole is uncertain, beyond the problems caused by PSG's dominance.

Ligue 1 still has no broadcast deal for next season, at a time when clubs continue to struggle financially in the wake of the collapse of a record contract with Spanish company Mediapro in 2020.

The hope, according to reports, is that a deal will be agreed with beIN Sports - a network that is, like PSG, Qatari-controlled - but time is of the essence.


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