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PSG is banking on a new direction after Kylian Mbappes move to Real Madrid

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MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Kylian Mbappe. Lionel Messi. Neymar.

The talent drain at Paris Saint-Germain over the past 12 months was unprecedented in the world of soccer.

Now the French club is looking to the future and an end to its age of excess.

“It is a new era of PSG,” president Nasser Al-Khelaifi said. “All respect to Messi, Neymar, Kylian. We know what they’ve done for the club.

“It was very important to have them all. I wish them all the best for their new challenges, but as a club, for sure, I think the star is the collective.”

Time will tell how PSG’s post-Galactico era will work out. But the signings of Messi, Neymar and Mbappe ultimately failed to achieve the Qatar-backed club’s overriding ambition of conquering Europe.

For all of PSG’s dominance of the French league — winning it in 10 of the last 12 seasons — it has reached just one Champions League final since being bought by Qatar Sports Investments in 2011.

A procession of icons has gone through the club in that time from David Beckham to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Angel di Maria and Sergio Ramos. Yet the Champions League has so far remained out of reach.

Even Messi couldn’t change PSG’s fortunes, despite ending his own search for the World Cup title in 2022 in his final year in Paris.

So it is perhaps understandable that Al-Khelaifi is looking to go in a different direction, having spent a record $262 million on Neymar and $190 million on Mbappe in one spectacular offseason in 2017. Messi was a free agent from Barcelona, but the combined salary for all three was a reported $152 million annually, plus bonuses.

For all of that exorbitant spending, PSG has watched on as Madrid has continued to dominate the Champions League, winning the trophy in six of the last 11 seasons. Abu Dhabi-backed Manchester City, which like PSG, has used its newfound riches to shake up the traditional order of European soccer’s elite, won the Champions League for the first time last year.

PSG’s so-called shift started last year following the exits of Messi to Inter Miami and Neymar to Saudi-team Al-Hilal. Mbappe’s departure was also anticipated.

Not that it is shopping in the bargain basement, having spent around $500 million on new players over that period.

Randal Kolo Muani was signed for 95 million euros ($103 million); Goncalo Ramos was 65 million euros ($70 million) and Ousmane Dembele was 50 million euros ($54 million).

More signings will come during this offseason.

Bradley Barcola, another signing last year, and Warren Zaire-Emery are emerging French talents.

Zaire-Emery was a graduate from the club’s academy and after building a state of the art training center, PSG hopes more will follow.

While the wait for European success goes on, PSG’s new-look team won the domestic league and cup double last season and was a beaten semifinalist in the Champions League.

“(It was an) amazing season we had, missing only two matches to win the big trophy (the Champions League). It was a great season. More than what we expected,” Al-Khelaifi said. “We did a lot of changes.”

That success, however, was achieved with Mbappe still at the heart of the team and scoring 40 goals in all competitions to fill the void left by Messi and Neymar a year before.

Whether Mbappe can be replaced, is another question entirely.

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