For years, it has looked like the PSG superstar-recruitment project was going to end. In 2017, a star-studded PSG team was humiliated by Barcelona in the Champions League, losing 6-1 to be eliminated on aggregate despite winning the first leg 4-0. The club responded by bringing in teenage star Kylian Mbappe and record transfer Neymar — and promptly was knocked out in the Round of 16 by Real Madrid.
The following season, reinforcements including Gianluigi Buffon and Leandro Paredes were brought in, but PSG again fell short — this time losing in the second leg of the Round of 16 to Manchester United to overturn a first-leg victory. In 2020, it looked like they would finally win the Champions League, but, in typical PSG fashion, they lost 1-0 to Bayern. To add insult to injury, the winning goal was scored by a PSG academy product, Kingsley Coman.
In 2022, PSG went all out — if they hadn’t been doing that before — and brought in a collection of the world’s biggest stars. Sergio Ramos, Achraf Hakimi, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Georginio Wijnaldum, Nuno Mendes, Danilo Pereira, and, above all, Barcelona legend Lionel Messi. Surely it was their year.
Except it wasn’t. Real Madrid eliminated them in 2022 despite PSG again taking the first leg, and this year they were swept aside by their old friends Bayern Munich. Two former PSG players found the net that series — again Coman and Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting.
The club’s most recent elimination looks to have been the final straw. The fans, unhappy with years of failure, turned to blaming Messi and Neymar, forcing Messi out of the club. Mbappe has reportedly declared that he wants to leave, while other stars (Neymar included) have been linked with an exit. This leaves the club in a tricky position — who can they bring in to replace Messi that breaks the trend of signing overpriced divas?
Bernardo Silva, Manchester City
First, the most likely option: Bernardo Silva. Fresh off of winning a Champions League with another wealthy club, Manchester City, Silva has been linked with an exit, with Barcelona and PSG rumored to be interested. However, Barcelona likely doesn’t have the cash, which leaves Paris as a likely destination for the 28-year-old.
Silva is a versatile forward, and he can play on the right wing and in the center, making him an ideal Messi replacement. Since joining City in 2017, Silva has been a big part of the side, playing over 300 games and scoring 55 goals (and assisting a further 59). He also has experience in Ligue 1, as he featured for AS Monaco before moving to Manchester.
While Silva would be a quality replacement, he’s exactly what PSG has tried before — a proven, very expensive attacker who has caused controversy at times.
Donyell Malen, Borussia Dortmund
Malen has not been linked with PSG, but he could be a great option for the club. The 24-year-old arrived in Dortmund in 2021 and had a mixed debut season, scoring five times and assisting six in the Bundesliga. However, it was this season he really took off, leading Dortmund’s title charge as he scored nine goals and assisted seven.
Similarly to Silva, Malen can play in many different positions in the attack but tends to feature on the right flank. That’s where most of his best performances came this season for Dortmund, including a brace against Frankfurt. A pacy forward, he could link up well with Mbappe, and he contributes more defensively than Messi.
Malen might not be the best player out there — Silva, for example, is a Champions League winner, but he is a very good player. He is also less problematic and certainly cheaper than other names being considered.
Paulo Dybala, Roma
On the subject of much cheaper options, Dybala reportedly has a release clause of just €12 million. After struggling towards the end of his Juventus career, the 29-year-old is finding his form in Rome, scoring 18 goals and assisting eight in all competitions.
Dybala is, on paper, similar to Lionel Messi. He tends to play behind the striker but can also feature on the right side of the field. Just like his fellow Argentine, Dybala is not a tall attacker, nor the fastest, but instead relies on his incredible dribbling and shooting abilities.
Dybala once looked like he could be one of the best players in the world with Juventus. However, while he has not achieved as much as he might have hoped, he is a quality player who does what he is asked to do. For PSG, that is exactly what they need.
Antoine Griezmann, Atletico Madrid
One thing PSG is clearly trying to do to gain popularity is bring in more French players. The club is reportedly chasing Bayern duo Lucas Hernandez and Benjamin Pavard while making a conscious effort to hold onto more of its French talents. Why not bring in a World Cup-winning hero?
After struggles with Barcelona, Griezmann has been electric with Atletico Madrid. This season he has a whopping 15 goals and 17 assists in La Liga despite limited opportunities at the beginning of the season. Unlike the others, the 32-year-old tends to play almost entirely centrally, but, like Messi, he can play behind a striker, making him a deeper-lying threat.
Griezmann reportedly has a release clause of €25 million, again making him a cheaper option. Additionally, his feats on the national team mean he is already a hero in Paris, meaning he would likely be a popular signing. This is probably the lowest-risk option for PSG.