Friday, 3 May 2013

Time to party like it's 1994? Looking back at PSG's last Ligue 1 triumph

Sunday could be the day the inevitable is confirmed and Paris Saint-Germain are crowned Ligue 1 champions.

The maths are so simple even the most bone-headed of UKIP voters could work it out: If Marseille fail to win against Bastia and we beat Valenciennes on Sunday night then the champagne can start flowing in Paris. And Qatar. Even if/when OM win 1-0 against the Corsicans, a PSG victory pretty much wraps things up due to our goal difference advantage of 35.

PSG’s long history of incompetence means this will be our first title since the 1993/94 season. Who remembers 93/94? Not me, I was 11 and more concerned about whether Cambridge United would qualify for the Division Three play-offs (they didn’t) than what Artur Jorge’s Rouge-et-Bleu squad were up to.

But what a squad it was. People go on about the amount of big names we have now, but check out this list of players: Lama, Kombouare, Le Guen, Roche, Guerin, Valdo, Ginola, Rai, Weah. That’s a decent spine by anyone’s reckoning, and it was no surprise that the campaign ended in glorious fashion.

The previous season had seen PSG finish second behind Marseille, though President Bernard Tapie’s player-bribing activities subsequently saw OM stripped of their title. In a wonderfully French turn of events, PSG’s owners, Canal+, declined to take the title instead for fear that they would alienate subscribers in the south. It all sounds very messy and a bit corrupt.

Onto 93/94, and Jorge's trademark facial hair was looking particularly bushy as he sniffed a first PSG title win since 1986. He kept the bulk of his 1992/93 squad together, but bolstered his forward line with the addition of future Watford striker Xavier Gravelaine from Caen, and Brazilian maestro Rai, who arrived Sao Paulo for a fee of $4.6million. The attacking midfielder, who would go on to spend five glorious years at Parc des Princes, distinguished himself on matchday eight against Montpellier, scoring the only goal in a 1-0 win and pulling off coup du foulard – or Rabona as it’s known in the rest of the world – passing the ball to a team-mate by kicking it from behind his standing leg. Top tekkers, as they definitely didn’t say in 1993.

In the early matches of the season PSG were not showing signs of league-winning form. A 1-0 opening day loss to Bordeaux set the tone for a patchy beginning to the campaign, which included just three wins in their first seven games and a 1-0 defeat to Marseille, who at this stage looked likely to defend their ill-gotten title.

However, Jorge’s men soon kick into gear, and impressive 4-0 win over Auxerre (who would go on to finish third) set the tone for an unbeaten run that would last for 27 games, a Ligue 1 record until it was busted the 12 months later by Nantes. All the more remarkable was that this was achieved without captain Kombouare, who ruptured his cruciate ligament in training at the end of September causing him to miss the majority of the season.

That 4-0 result wasn’t particularly characteristic though, as PSG’s success was built on a series of 1-0 victories, with future coaches Le Guen and Brazilian Ricardo proving to be rocks at the back alongside Roche. Just 22 goals were shipped all season, a miserly record the class of 2013 look set to match.

Up top, David Ginola was providing the team’s principle attacking threat, and finished the season top scorer on 18 goals. You may remember that 1993 was the year France lost 2-1 at home to Bulgaria, thus failing to qualify for the 1994 World Cup. The blame for this failure was placed firmly on the shoulders of Ginola, who gave the ball away carelessly in the run up to Kostadinov’s winning goal. The mercurial winger answered his critics in the best possible fashion, scoring the opener in his next match to set PSG on the way to a 2-1 victory at Toulouse.

PSG’s good league form was achieved alongside a foray to the latter stages of the Cup Winners Cup, though this was terminated by eventual winners Arsenal in the semi-finals. The unbeaten Ligue 1 run continued unabated, and only came to an end with six matches of the season to go, when Nantes gave us a taste of what was to come the following year by administering a 3-0 tonking.

But by then the Ligue 1 title was pretty much in the bag, and it was secured in front of a packed Parc des Princes when Ricardo nodded in a Valdo corner to seal a 1-0 win against Toulouse. The final whistle saw fans invade the pitch to celebrate the title success – little did they know how long they’d have to wait for another one.

Jorge and his amazing moustache were gone at the end of the season, with the Portuguese coach returning to his homeland to boss Benfica. Nearly 20 years later, and it seems the next man to guide PSG to title glory, Carlo Ancelotti, will not be hanging around either. Plus ca change…

(NB: I couldn't have written this article without referring to, a wonderful PSG nostalgia site. Check it out if you can read French. Or use Google translate.)


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