Before strolling through the aisles of the Geneva Watch Show on Thursday April 11, Kylian Mbappé should perhaps have taken inspiration from the watch brand of which he is an ambassador to choose better timing for his visit to Switzerland. The day after the defeat of Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) in the quarter-final first leg of the Champions League against FC Barcelona (2-3), the striker was seen there all smiles, visibly far from his worries of the watches over the lawn of the Parc des Princes.

Some PSG supporters did not fail to highlight the contradictions of the native of Bondy (Seine-Saint-Denis), taking out of the boxes the famous “eat well, sleep well”, an injunction made by the attacker to his teammates, in February 2023, after the capital club’s defeat against Bayern Munich. The formula seemed to target Neymar, regularly criticized for his overly recurring appearances at extra-sporting events. A year later, he is the one in the eye of the storm.

Having missed the first leg, the 25-year-old striker knows he is eagerly awaited on Tuesday April 16 for the return leg against Barça at the Lluís Companys Olympic Stadium. It is here, 600 kilometers from Santiago-Bernabéu, where he could continue his career with Real Madrid, that Mbappé will perhaps play his last European Cup match with Paris.

In Barcelona, ​​two paths open for PSG. That of the last square – which he has not reached since 2021. And that of the new era, post-Mbappé, which will leave the ship at the end of the season. This would begin as soon as the ultimate trophy – the Champions League – was no longer attainable. Once again, the “dream bigger”, which PSG has strived to apply since the arrival of the Qatari owners in 2011, would take a new form.

“If the team is better, the individuals will succeed”

In recent years, Paris has imagined itself, in turn, winning the prestigious “big ears cup” with Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Neymar, Lionel Messi then Mbappé as the heads of the gondola. Tuesday is the last chance time for the 2023-2024 vintage. “PSG are still favorites,” said Barcelona coach Xavi after his team’s victory at the Parc des Princes last week. But nothing has been done yet.

The result of this quarter-final return will inevitably depend on Mbappé’s performance and the version of himself that he presents to the Catalan public. That of the first leg and the last weeks, out of the picture with PSG and the French team, will have little chance of qualifying Paris. The one who defeated Barça with a hat-trick at the Camp Nou in February 2021, much more.

The striker that Parisian supporters demand in chorus, a devourer of space and defenders, does not, however, appear on command. Caught in the vice by the Blaugrana defense on April 10 and criticized for his poor performance, due to a laxity deemed culpable, number 7 was able to count on the support of his captain Marquinhos: “If he was less precise this evening , it may be because the ball did not arrive at the right time, in the right timing. (…) If the team is better, the individuals will succeed afterwards. »

With the return of Achraf Hakimi, who was suspended on the outward leg, the Parisian collective will inevitably do better. He will also be invigorated by a weekend spent preparing for the deadline rather than playing in Ligue 1 – the Professional Football League has chosen to postpone the matches of clubs still involved in the European Cup, to increase their chances to shine there. Meanwhile, Barça tried to rotate its squad during a match won on Saturday in Cadiz (1-0).

Continue the adventure for a few weeks

Announced as favorites for this double confrontation against the Catalan club during the draw, the Parisians will have to do better than a good fifteen minutes at the start of the half – as was the case last week – to achieve their own “comeback” , seven years after that suffered at the Camp Nou, on March 8, 2017. “We are convinced that we will turn the situation around,” insisted Monday its architect, Luis Enrique, who has since moved to the opposing bench.

Including Mbappé, who is experiencing his most conflictual relationship with a coach since his arrival in Paris in 2017. Already top scorer in the history of PSG, the Bondynois has never hidden his desire to offer the club its first Champions League title . “I feel very motivated, like the whole team. This is the time to show that we are ready and to change the outcome of the first leg,” argued Hakimi.

But his PSG experienced contrasting adventures in the prestigious European Cup, with great disappointments in the round of 16 against Manchester United (2019) and Real Madrid (2022), the semi-final return that the injured striker had missed against Manchester City (2021) or his disappointing performance in the final against Bayern Munich (2020).

An elimination on Tuesday against Barcelona, ​​the capital club will digest it. He does it every year and is now used to postponing his wildest hopes until the following season. But for the story with Mbappé to continue a little longer before moving on, it’s now or never.