It came as no surprise when Paris Saint-Germain lifted the Coupe de la Ligue this year, brushing aside Monaco in the final for the second consecutive season. Unai Emery may be a manager whose time is rapidly diminishing in the City of Lights, but he will still have guided the Parisians to a Ligue 1 title and an array of domestic cups before his departure. To further round off a convincing scoreline for the runaway league leaders, former Monaco superstar Kylian Mbappe played a key role in each of the three goals that once again demonstrated the evident gulf in class between France’s top two sides.
Monaco, who have slowly but surely seen the spine of their team stripped away by some of Europe’s largest clubs, looked for a battling performance and perhaps even a surprise end result. But in only the fifth minute, what already seemed an insurmountable task for Leonardo Jardim’s outfit became next to impossible. After a lengthy stoppage and consultation with the video assistant referee, the officials deemed Kamil Glik’s challenge on Mbappe to be an infringement, and clinical front man Edinson Cavani duly stroked home the resultant penalty. From there, PSG moved into the ascendancy and strolled to victory.
The 19-year-old Frenchman showed once again why many deem him to have the world at his feet, after he helped create the second goal. After bursting from inside his own half, Mbappe curled an elegantly-weighted pass into the path of Angel di Maria. The Argentine did the rest, rifling home at Danjiel Subasic’s near post, although the Monaco shot stopper could have done better.
Radamel Falcao’s controversially disallowed effort soured the occasion even further for Monaco, with the Colombian striker appearing onside in replays following his conversion of Rony Lopes’ wicked delivery. The chalked off header appeared to shake Monaco even further, allowing PSG to grab a third and cap off the final. Once again, the ever-present Mbappe picked out Cavani who fired home his second, but was denied a hat-trick after having another earlier finish ruled out.
At the end of the final, it was clear to see just how PSG have comfortably sauntered to regaining their position as kings of France’s top flight. Their opponents simply paled in comparison to some of PSG’s elaborate attacking play, with the club’s finest assets linking up superbly and advancing to their fifth consecutive Coupe de la Ligue triumph. Put simply PSG once again threatened, in only 90 minutes, to dominate the landscape of French football for many years to come.
No other club in the country can compete with PSG’s extravagant spending habits – the £200 million acquisition of Neymar shocked the world whilst also shifting the boundaries of what was originally thought possible for a transfer. The record for a signing now appears to have no limits, and the club’s Qatari owners’ lofty ambitions ensure they will spend big again. The likes of Monaco, Marseille and Lyon are understandably falling away, both in the league and cup competitions, because they are unable to match the riches brandished so nonchalantly at the Parc des Princes. Talent on the pitch only goes so far, with teams constantly needing refreshing to ensure a challenge for European football, let alone a title push.
The same has happened in the Premier League this season. Manchester City have strengthened magnificently, and Pep Guardiola has undoubtedly began to mould the squad into an outfit able to compete with the continent’s biggest names year in, year out. But in any other season, without the Citizens’ relentless form from August onward, the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool may have even been embroiled in a race for top spot. The feeling is that next year City won’t be able to so comfortably lift the Premier League trophy, with their nearest rivals expected to strengthen significantly once again.
But in France, this simply doesn’t apply – PSG are almost certain to retain their position as the best team in France for the foreseeable future, no matter how much their rivals attempt to stop this. So what can be done to stop this? Well, there is no clear answer to the dilemma. There promises to be the odd season where a different side triumphs in Ligue 1, similar to Monaco’s heroics from last year, but PSG’s spending might seems to increase yearly. The departure of Emery spells more danger for France’s top flight too, with the club fully expecting to hire a more elite manager: potentially in the mould of Antonio Conte, Jose Mourinho or, as more recent rumour suggest, Thomas Tuchel. Any of these figures are likely to further improve PSG and, with even more support guaranteed from the Qatar Sports Investments group, France’s top dogs threaten to rule over France for the foreseeable future, and perhaps even Europe.