Alan Stubbs says PSG now good enough to win Champions League

Former Celtic defender Alan Stubbs has hailed Paris Saint-Germain's holy trinity of Kylian Mbappe, Edinson Cavani and Neymar as the most potent strike partnership in the global game.

Kylian Mbappe, Neymar and Edinson Cavani form a formidable forward line for Paris Saint-Germain. Franck Fife/AFP/Getty Images

Between them the trio were responsible for four of the goals in Tuesday’s 5-0 thrashing of Celtic at Parkhead, a display which had many of the home support bemoaning the shortcomings of their own side.

While their deficiencies were indeed ruthlessly exposed by the visitors, Stubbs believes that to focus on those failings is to miss the point. Which is that you get what you pay for and, funded by Qatar Sports Investments, PSG will have spent in the region of £435 million assembling their front three by the time they pay AS Monaco £163m for Mbappe at the end of his season-long loan.

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Stubbs argues that it is unrealistic for Celtic to contemplate competing on a level playing field with the French giants, who have spent their way into the stratosphere 
currently populated only by Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich.

“We’ve talked for years about Messi, Suarez and Neymar at Barcelona but Neymar, Cavani and Mbappe is the next big one,” said the former Hibernian manager.

“They were breathtaking at times, not just their movement but their decision-making and their first touches made it football played at a different level.

“When you’re a player and you come up against top quality opponents the first thing you notice is that their first touch is unbelievably good.

“Celtic were criticised for not getting close to them but they tried to do that but PSG’s awareness and movement were so good that they couldn’t get near them.

“Sometimes people don’t appreciate how difficult it is to get close to players of that calibre. As supporters, we sit in the stand and shout ‘Get closer!’ or ‘Kick him!’ but it’s easier said than done.”

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers has been criticised in some quarters for failing to sign an experienced centre-back to compensate for the absence through injury of Dedryck Boyota and Erik 
Sviatchenko but Stubbs claims that argument does not 
hold water.

“It wouldn’t have made a great deal of difference, other than it might have taken away the argument of people saying that a new central defender would have helped,” he said.

“Personally, I think Celtic would have needed 15 players on the pitch and I don’t even know if that would have helped.

“If Brendan could have brought in a centre-half then I’m sure he would have done but the right one must not have been available and what was out there might not have been better than what he had.

“He has probably thought: ‘I’m not going to bring one in for the sake of it because Boyata will be back soon enough’.”

That does not mean that Stubbs believes Celtic did not contribute to their own downfall, merely that Unai Emery’s lavishly paid squad would have prevailed in any case.

“I’ve had the privilege of taking part in some great nights at Celtic Park and also of watching some great teams play there but Wednesday night was possibly the best performance I’ve seen from anyone there; it was that impressive,” he said.

“They’ll do that to other teams as well – there’s no doubt about that because they’re only going to get better.

“Of course, you always have to analyse your performance afterwards and I’m sure Brendan will do that but sometimes you just have to say: ‘You know what? They were better than us’.

“So you can look at why they didn’t start the game as well as they’d have wanted to, you can look at why they didn’t have too much possession or why they weren’t a bit braver when they did have the ball but there are other factors at play.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if PSG lifted the trophy next year because I think they’ll get even better once they get through the group phase. Anyone playing them over two legs in the knockout stage is going to have to put in some performances to beat them.

“They’ve put down the early marker in the competition. Opponents don’t enjoy going to Celtic Park – Manchester City didn’t last season because it’s a tough place to go to.

“PSG, though, simply took it in their stride. They were everything we feared that they might be but hoped that they wouldn’t be.

“It was Celtic’s worst-ever home defeat and a top-notch performance from PSG. They weren’t just one or two levels above Celtic but three or four, possibly more.

“But it doesn’t really change anything. Celtic’s aspirations have always been to finish third in the group and no-one expected them to pick up any points from PSG, although they might have hoped to.

“Now they have to take maximum points off Anderlecht. Do that and they can still 
have European football after Christmas.”

l Stubbs was speaking at the Tesco Bank Football Challenge at St Benedict’s Primary School in Easterhouse. Over 140,000 children have taken part in the grassroots programme.