Needing only three points, Paris Saint Germain knew that winning their fourth league title was in their own hands. Up against bottom club Troyes, PSG were strong favourites for the win but few would have predicted how emphatically they would do so. Dominant from the off, Laurent Blanc’s side controlled the game with ease eventually running out 9-0 winners. Goals from Pastore, Rabiot and Ibrahimovic gave PSG a 3-0 lead going into the half time break. But rather than applying the breaks in order to coast to victory, the champions elect stepped up a gear and went for the jugular destroying Troyes in a frightening 45 minutes period. An own goal from Saunier, a brace from Cavani and a further three goals from Ibrahimovic wrapped up the result and the league title.
The ease in which PSG wrapped up the title this year with eight games to spare is more a reflection of the growing gap between the champions and the chasing pack than anything else. Only one defeat in thirty games and a positive goal difference of 62 highlights the issue. Monaco did managed to mount a sizable challenge but too many draws ultimately led them to fall too far behind PSG. Surprise package Nice, led by the brillIance of former Newcastle winger Hatem Ben Arfa and Lyon came close but in the end now one could keep up with Laurent Blanc’s side as they sped to the title. Lyon were the only side to beat PSG during the regular season but a series of early season defeats had by then already cost them a chance at the title. The key reason for this growing gap is the financial resources available to PSG. Their addition of Angel Di Maria in the summer for €63m was more than any other team in the league spent in total during the entire season. At this level of spending it is impossible for the chasing pack to compete, leading to a one sided title race in Ligue 1.
With the league tied up, PSG can now focus on the one title that the clubs Qatari owners want the most – the Champions League. Having eliminated Chelsea in the last round, PSG advance to the quarter finals with the hopes of becoming only the second french side to lift the coveted title (after Marseille’s infamous victory in 1993). There are still some formidable sides left in the competition including Real Madrid, Manchester city and current holders Barcelona but all the remaining teams are still competing for their respective domestic titles giving PSG major advantage. Blanc now has the luxury of resting his entire starting eleven ahead of the next set of Champions League fixtures with the remaining squad players and youngsters at the club taking over the league duties in their absence. Keeping his talented side fresh for this run may be a decisive factor in PSG eventually winning the trophy.
Doing so may also be the only hope that the club has of holding on to the eccentric Zlatan Ibrahimovic how has indicated that he is likely to leave at the end of the season when his contract expires. At 34 years old, Ibrahimovic is well aware that his career is drawing quickly to a close so is considering his options after winning everything that is possible at PSG. Club president Nasser Al-Khelaifi wants the iconic player to stay but all the sounds coming out of Ibrahimovic’s camp is that he has made his mind up, joking that the only way he will stay is if the city replaced the Eiffel Tower with a statue of him. Ibrahimovic has recently been linked with moves to Manchester United and Major League Soccer in the United States. If however PSG can lift the Champions league, it may persuade Ibrahimovic to stay at the club a while longer as they compete firstly for the Super cup and then in December for the Club World Cup. He has won both of these trophies before at Barcelona but to do it with PSG as the clubs talisman would be enough of an incentive for Ibrahimovic to consider staying for one further season.
Ibrahimovic’s four goals on Sunday included a 10-minute hat-trick, which took his league total to 27 in 24 games this season and increased his tally in the French top flight to 102. He may be aging but at present is showing no signs of slowing down and could quite easily continue to score crucial goals for PSG for some time to come especially given the ever widening gap between PSG and the other teams in the league. The next few months will be defining times for both PSG and Ibrahimovic and whether they will stay together or part as friends at the end of this specular season for the French champions.
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