Neymar, Buffon, Coutinho, Suarez - PSG eye the Champions League crown
French giants Paris Saint-Germain target the world’s top players in bid to become kings of Europe
Paris Saint-Germain unveiled Italian goalkeeping legend Gianluigi Buffon yesterday as they, and he, hope for Champions League glory next season.
Buffon is the latest piece in the PSG jigsaw and with new coach Thomas Tuchel at the helm hopes are high in the French capital that this could be the season that the European underachievers finally deliver on the biggest stage of all.
Last year, under former boss Unai Emery - now manager of Arsenal - and with £200m superstar Neymar and World Cup sensation Kylian Mbappe leading the attack, PSG won the domestic treble. But once again they flopped in Europe, exiting in the last 16 of the Champions League against Real Madrid.
The French side have never won the Champions League, but neither has Buffon, despite playing in three finals during his 17-year stay at Juventus.
‘Enthusiasm of a child’
At his press conference the 40-year-old Italian said he had been chasing the Champions League for as long as PSG, but insisted it was not an “obsession” and said it would be “madness” to target only one trophy next season.
But there can be little doubt that new boss Tuchel has been tasked with winning the trophy that eluded Emery during his time in Paris. And now he has Buffon on board.
The Italian said he came to Paris with the “enthusiasm of a child” and was looking forward to the challenge.
“I started [chasing the Champions League] well before PSG,” said Buffon. “It is not an obsession for the club, but it is an interesting trophy.
"I accepted the offer because the conditions are right for me to progress as a player and as a man - I can help the club progress a little more.”
PSG’s key players and rumoured transfer targets
Who else could join Tuchel’s and Buffon’s quest for an elusive Champions League trophy? We look at key players and transfer targets.
PSG’s world-record signing of Brazilian striker Neymar stunned the football world in 2017, but there have been rumours that the former Barcelona star may be regretting his decision to move to France. And Brazil’s failure at the World Cup has only added to his discontent.
“Pre-tournament favourites Brazil were dumped out of the tournament by Belgium in the quarter-finals, with Neymar admitting that the loss was the ‘saddest moment’ of his career,” says the Daily Express.
“He was criticised throughout the World Cup for his theatrics and play-acting and only managed two goals in five games. However new PSG signing Buffon thinks failing to win the World Cup could act as extra motivation for Neymar in the coming campaign.”
Neymar has continuously been linked with a move back to Spain with Barca’s biggest rivals Real Madrid. But on 3 July the European champions issued a statement denying they had made any bid for the Brazilian.
Spanish paper Mundo Deportivo claims Neymar could be persuaded to stay in Paris if the French side lure his compatriot from Barcelona with a world-record offer of €270m (£239m).
The paper says that the arrival of Coutinho would “deactivate” Neymar’s desire to leave. But the deal could end up costing them €400m (£354m) if they are forced to trigger Coutinho’s release clause. It sounds far-fetched, but few believed Neymar would sign last summer.
Another Barcelona star said to be in PSG’s sights is Uruguayan hitman Luis Suarez.
“Neymar has reportedly proposed Paris Saint-Germain move for Luis Suarez after growing tired of playing alongside Edinson Cavani,” claims ESPN.
The broadcaster says that Neymar considers Suarez, like Coutinho a former Liverpool player, to be “a winner”.
Earlier in the summer The Sun reported that PSG were after Manchester United star Paul Pogba. “PSG are interested in adding the ex-Juventus ace to help boost their Champions League hopes next season,” it claimed.
“Pogba’s representatives have held initial talks with the French side, but it is not known to what extent.”
There were rumours that Pogba’s agent Mino Raiola had offered the midfielder to United’s rivals Manchester City last season, so any other destination must be seen as possible.
The Chelsea star is also on PSG’s radar and would cost upwards of £100m. “Kante, who currently earns around £100,000-a-week at Chelsea, would be in line for a bumper pay rise if he were to make the move,” says the Daily Star.
“Chelsea are desperate to keep hold of their key man and would be willing to offer him a new deal worth a similar figure. But they know the opportunity of a return to France, three years after leaving Caen, may prove too difficult for Kante to turn down.”
The 31-year-old Italian defender joined AC Milan from Juventus only last summer, but the Rossoneri could be forced to sell this summer as their finances are in turmoil.
Indeed, the Italian side could also be forced to offload Bonucci’s defensive partner Alessio Romagnoli claims Calcio Mercato, giving Tuchel the chance to purchase an established defensive pairing.
One player who should definitely be lining up alongside Buffon next season is France sensation Kylian Mbappe. He burst on to the scene two years ago with Monaco and spent last season on loan with PSG.
Now his move to the capital has been completed and, in the wake of his explosive performances at the World Cup, his presence in the PSG line up could attract other players.