Silva, Ibrahimovic & Beckham can build a great PSG, but Pastore is not good enough

The midweek tie against Barcelona illustrated which stars should be the bedrock to the French side's future, and which ones are not of the required quality
By Robin Bairner

Paris Saint-Germain’s reputation continued to grow on Tuesday evening as they secured a 2-2 draw against Barcelona in the first-leg of their Champions League quarter-final at Parc des Princes, at least giving themselves an opportunity to eliminate the Catalans at Camp Nou next week.

While progression to the semi-finals looks likely to be a bridge too far for Carlo Ancelotti’s side, the long-term goal of the club's ambitious owners remains victory in the competition, and to that end they have supplied sporting director Leonardo with great riches over the last two years to strengthen what was previously a modest team.

PSG’s truly headline signings arrived last summer in the form of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva from AC Milan. Both came with world-class reputations and both have lived up to their star billing in France.

Ibrahimovic may have been prone to the odd outburst – claiming the club “had nothing” before he arrived – yet the mercurial frontman remains their chief source of goals. His performance against Barca may have blown hot and cold, but he was alert enough to convert the rebound to Silva’s header to square the game, despite loitering in a clearly offside position, and his physical prowess unsettled the visiting rearguard throughout.

Silva Matuidi

If the Swede is the offensive powerhouse behind Ancelotti’s side, it is the Brazilian centre-back who provides the vital underpinning brilliance in defence. Silva is the outstanding player in his role on the planet, and although he may have been partially forgotten since his move to France, the skills he showed against Barcelona showed why he is presently the greatest exponent of his position. He read the game perfectly and displayed the kind of leadership required of a top-level centre-back.

While Ibra and Silva are the basis of the spine of PSG's present and future, les Parisiens are also building a formidable midfield.

At the heart of this is the energy of Blaise Matuidi, who dovetails neatly with the spikey but talented Marco Verratti, whose creativity from deep is invaluable. The Italian may have been nudged from the starting XI against Barca, yet in stepped David Beckham, who showed he is more than just an old head by turning in an industrious 70 minutes that were not without moments of quality. A one-year extension is set to be offered to the mediatised Englishman, and on Tuesday he showed that he is more than just a pretty face – even if he cannot be expected to get through so much work on a regular basis.

And this is all before considering talented 17-year-old Adrien Rabiot, who is presently in the midst of a great run of form on loan at Toulouse.

But this PSG side is far from complete. Ancelotti’s system places much emphasis on the full-backs pushing forward. Maxwell, though a quality defensive player, is typically measured with his offensive forays on the left, while neither Christophe Jallet nor Gregory van der Wiel are of the standard required of a very top side on the right, with the Netherlands defender enduring a particularly difficult time in France.


Van der Wiel



This lack of width is also apparent in the midfield. Javier Pastore has been shoehorned into a wide role for which he is not suited, while the persistent shunning of the erratic Jeremy Menez to the bench suggests the Frenchman’s time in Paris could well be drawing to a close. Only Lucas Moura offers real quality in this department, and for all his dashing play so far, he has yet to really produce any telling moments.

Regardless of PSG’s success or failure at Camp Nou next week, Ancelotti and Leonardo will be aware of these weaknesses in their side, and they are no doubt already making plans to remedy these issues during a summer in which the Parc des Princes club will aim to take further strides to the top.

A strong performance against Barcelona was a start – but it is by no means the end.

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