The reaction in France to the all-star Paris Saint-Germain’s Champions League bow against Club Brugge in midweek has been unforgiving.
PSG, football’s new galacticos following the arrival of Lionel Messi, were dismissed as “ghost-like” by sports daily L’Equipe as they escaped with a 1-1 draw against the Belgian champions on what was the Argentine’s first start for his new club.
Messi teamed up with Kylian Mbappe and Neymar for the first time but, as Le Parisien put it, “the dream of seeing the 'MNM' together almost turned into a nightmare”.
A draw away to, on paper, the weakest team in their Champions League group puts Mauricio Pochettino’s side -– among the leading pre-tournament favourites to win European club football's biggest prize -– up against it just to reach the last 16.
They play Manchester City next and still have to face RB Leipzig, two teams that beat PSG in last season’s Champions League.
The game in Bruges served as a reminder that the Qatar-owned club cannot simply rely on Messi, Neymar and Mbappe to win games, even if the latter set up their goal for Ander Herrera.
They desperately missed the suspended Idrissa Gana Gueye and the injured Marco Verratti in midfield.
Angel di Maria was suspended. At the back, Sergio Ramos has still not played because of injury.
“We must improve, we know that,” said Pochettino. “We have a magnificent squad, but we need balance, to be creative going forward but solid at the back. We need time for that.”
It is concerning when compared with Pep Guardiola’s City, who thumped Leipzig 6-3 in midweek and come to Paris later this month.
By then Messi will at least have had three more matches to get used to his new team-mates, starting with Sunday's home meeting with Lyon, PSG's biggest test yet domestically.
PSG have a 100 percent record so far in Ligue 1 and have scored 16 goals in their five outings but they face a Lyon side that is in form and beat Rangers 2-0 in Glasgow in the Europa League on Thursday.