Next season being shaped as PSG reels from loss to Madrid

Next season being shaped as PSG reels from loss to Madrid
PSG's Angel Di Maria, second right, shoot on goal as Real Madrid's Varane, right, and Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas, defend during the Champions League round of sixteen second leg soccer match between Paris St. Germain and Real Madrid at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris, France, Tuesday, March 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

By Jerome Pugmire, Associated Press

PARIS (AP) — Paris Saint-Germain will have some tough decisions to make for next season.

The French club flopped again in Europe, losing to Real Madrid 5-2 on aggregate in the last 16 of the Champions League, despite huge spending designed to achieve success on the international stage.

Some key players are entering their 30s and won't be at their peak for much longer, while those in their early-to-mid 20s may consider their options elsewhere. Is easily winning the French league and domestic cup competitions enough, or will they seek a bigger challenge?

With PSG under investigation by UEFA for a potential breach of Financial Fair Play rules, and reportedly needing to raise about 50 million euros ($62 million), selling a couple of good players would help. PSG coach Unai Emery, meanwhile, seems certain to be replaced.

Here's a look at some of the key decisions facing PSG.

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DEFENSE

PSG captain Thiago Silva has been at the club since 2012 but often underperforms in big games, undermining his authority as captain.

Reported to be a solitary figure within the club, he openly criticizing striker Edinson Cavani and midfielder Javier Pastore after they returned late from the winter break.

At 33, his pace is fading along with the aura he had after joining from AC Milan.

Marquinhos, another Brazilian, appears to be a surer defender and is 10 years younger. Silva may make way so that Marquinhos and 22-year-old Presnel Kimpembe can form a long-term center back pairing.

Left backs Layvin Kurzawa and Yuri Berchiche have failed to make the position their own, while Thomas Meunier was perhaps unfairly sacrificed for Dani Alves at right back. Alves flopped against Madrid and at 34 his best days are gone.

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MIDFIELD

PSG's midfield situation is a confusing one of its own making.

Thiago Motta is 35 and injury-prone. It will be even harder for him to play the holding midfield role next season. Lassana Diarra, signed as an emergency backup to Motta with the Madrid match in mind, is 32 and has hardly played in the last 18 months.

PSG desperately needs a top-class holding midfielder young enough to be a commanding leader for years to come.

Last season, PSG almost signed 24-year-old Fabinho from Monaco, but the move fell through.

Hindered by FFP rules, PSG probably can't buy him without selling. So, after almost leaving last year, talented midfield schemer Marco Verratti could go.

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FORWARDS

Angel Di Maria and Cavani celebrated their birthdays last month, with Di Maria turning 30 and Cavani 31.

They are still at their peak. Di Maria has 13 goals since January and Cavani is again the league's top scorer.

Kylian Mbappe is only 19, Neymar is 26 and they represent the club's future.

PSG scores for fun in France but doing so in the big Champions League games proved to be an altogether different matter.

This was not a question of individual ability but more how PSG's forwards play together. There are appears a fracture between Mbappe and Cavani, with Mbappe hardly passing to Cavani against Madrid.

By contrast, Mbappe has appeared star-struck playing alongside Neymar, almost always passing to him rather than someone in a better place.

Germany winger Julian Draxler was upset at only coming on against Madrid in the return leg. Like Cavani and Di Maria, he may also want to leave.

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COACH

Emery's contract expires in June and it seems highly unlikely he will get another one.

Hired to lead PSG to glory, he fell way short this season and last. Although PSG faced difficult teams in Barcelona and Real Madrid, the manner of the defeats in the last 16 — and Emery's decision-making — called into question his ability at the top level.

In the first leg at Madrid, he dropped Silva — his most experienced center half — with no forewarning and picked Kimpembe, handing the armband to Marquinhos. Although Kimpembe did fairly well, he was dropped for the return leg, with Silva reclaiming the armband.

The lack of authority in Emery's coaching does not help a fragile side and PSG needs stronger leadership.

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