For almost half a century, Paris Saint-Germain has been looking to mark the legend beyond that of a club of national renown and little European impact.
Over the course of four decades, the club has sought different ways to rise to the level of the continental elite, without any having worked so far.
Borne in a country where the passion of football was clearest in Marseille, Saint-Etienne and Rennes, the capital persisted in wanting to have a club among the best. A club that could achieve at both national level and in Europe.
The history of the club started with the merger with the club of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, a town on the outskirts of Paris, birthplace of King Louis XIV and with a team since 1906, was born an adventure of which the current heir only keeps the name.
Supported by 20,000 members, PSG began to evolve and, although two years later it became independent from Saint-Germain-en-Laye, it maintained that identity in its name. In the city it coincided with Paris FC and Red Star, although both had other signs of identity and more modest ambitions.
The new Parisian club was in a hurry to sneak into the elite and under the mythical and legendary Just Fontaine, they went up to the First Division. This allowed them to attract figures like Mustapha Dahleb and Carlos Bianchi to the club.
At the end of the 70s, a group of investors injected more capital into the club, and the first titles arrived in the following decade; the French Cups of 1982 and 1983, and their first league title in 1986, with players such as Safet Susic, Luis Fernandez and Dominique Rocheteau.
In the early 90’s, the club, despised in France for its lack of roots, entered a new dimension because of television company Canal +, which acquired it in 1991. Wanting to have a more interesting league, those responsible attracted players such as David Ginola, George Weah and Valdo.
Finally, the club transcended the borders of France and between 1993 and 1997 participated in five consecutive continental semifinals and put Parisian football on the European map.
Rai, Bernard Lama, Alain Roche, Paul Le Guen, Daniel Bravo, Vincent Guerin and Youri Djorkaeff are all names that live long in memory.
Bruno Ngotty’s goal in the 1995 Cup Winners Cup final in Brussels against Rapid Vienna, gave PSG their only European trophy, which also coincided with their second league title. In the following years, the television network didn’t put up all the money that was needed to follow their CWC success, and the team’s results didn’t invite large investments.
PSG therefore entered an irregular period, and neither the signing of Ronaldinho or the effectiveness of Pedro Pauletta, author of 109 goals, managed to get the club out of mediocrity.
When the Qatari buyout came, it was a huge shock.
At the beginning, they signed Javier Pastore, but the acceleration came with the arrival of swede forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic, from Milan. The striker became the soul of the club, its top scorer and its spirit, and in 2010, PSG won their first league title since 1996.
Carlo Ancelotti and former French coach Laurent Blanc have been on the bench and the club had almost no trouble domestically.
One more step was missing though, which is overcoming the Champions League quarterfinals – an objective that the Qataris had set within five years.
For this, they signed Unai Emery, who arrived having won the Europa League in three consecutive seasons with Sevilla.
This plan failed disastrously last season when the team squandered a 4-0 lead in the first leg of the last 16 against Barcelona. A historic 6-1 win for the Catalans at the Camp Nou saw the French side eliminated, once again. In what was a somewhat unimaginable reaction, The Emirs again stepped on the accelerator.
Signing Neymar from FC Barcelona put them out on their own.
Nobody had ever put so much money, €222m, on the table to get a footballer. In addition to that, an additional €190m was spent to bring in Kylian Mbappe – initially on loan – from AS Monaco.
Elimination in the hands of Real Madrid on Tuesday puts the extent of progress on the project under scrutiny once again. With the owners realising that Unai Emery has failed to lift the side when it has mattered most, it might be safe to think that a new manager would be handed this PSG project at the start of next season.
What is clear for all to see though, is that they have the quality and the resources to push on in their quest to go further in Europe.
The 2017 journey is over but be assured that Paris Saint-Germain will come knocking on the history books of European football again in 12 months time.