Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic charges powerless to mute the PSG show

French club, with most expensive signings Neymar and Kylian Mbappé, want to write new page of history and were not even in full flow in Champions League

One of the first rebranding wheezes introduced at Paris Saint-Germain after the club’s takeover by Qatari rulers in 2011 was to remove the club’s date of foundation from its crest. Apparently, when trying not to come across as a nouveau riche interloper among Europe’s aristocracy, it does not do to advertise that one was not created until 1970. That was three years after the Lisbon Lions made sure Celtic will always have a place in the continent’s hall of fame. Although PSG’s wealth now makes minnows of the Scottish champions, the French team’s jerseys still do not feature a gold star like the one worn by their hosts in Glasgow on Tuesday night.

The pursuit of such a star has become an obsession for PSG. Since making Neymar and Kylian Mbappé the most expensive signings in history, the club is fixated on a future that cannot come fast enough. The mishaps that the French club have endured in the tournament in recent years have given their quest if not kudos, then at least intrigue. Their last Champions League match before the trip to Glasgow ended in that humiliation at Barcelona.

Their response was to raise the stakes.

By committing to spending more than £350m on two of the most exciting players in the world PSG ensured they will either have vengeance on their tormentors or appear more inept than ever. Ultimately, PSG will make teams either bow down to them or double over in laughter.

Celtic were made to pay homage. The faithful had come to will Brendan Rodgers’ side to another famous victory but most of the world was tuning in to watch the PSG show. And they were not disappointed. To be precise – and despite the fact the slickness and smartness of the visitors’ midfield trio of Thiago Motta, Adrien Rabiot and Marco Veratti made Celtic seems like plodders – they had tuned in to watch the MCN Show, as Neymar and Mbappé have joined Edinson Cavani to form an attacking trident that has surely become the world’s most Googled abbreviation not related to a paramilitary organisation. A boon for the Motorcycle News website, a big threat to European football’s established order.

The good news for PSG, prone to crumbling in the past, is their newest recruits appear to relish the expectations. Neymar and Mbappé accept that fulfilling their destiny entails thriving in the limelight. They seem to be above pressure. But neither they nor any other player should have to prove they can remain unruffled even when some imbecile rushes out of the crowd and tries to kick them. But Mbappé proved that here after an outrageous incursion just before half-time.

By then PSG were 3-0 to the good, each member of the MCN having claimed a goal.

Neymar struck first, helped by the fact that the Italian referee waved play on after Scott Sinclair seemed to have been tripped in midfield. Adrien Rabiot threaded a pass through to Neymar, who zoomed past Anthony Ralston and lifted the ball over Craig Gordon with regal aplomb.

Neymar, in particular, embraces the responsibility entrusted to him. In his first matches in Ligue 1 he has performed as if determined not just to get on the scoresheet but also to go down in history. He strives to put on a show, as if to say “why walk when you can travel by unicycle, juggling chainsaws as you go”?

It is clear he moved from Barcelona not only to step out of the shadow of Lionel Messi but also to eclipse the ageing Argentinian. His every performance seems like a submission to the Ballon d’Or jury. In the second half here, mind you, he also made a bid for an Oscar and earned a yellow card from the referee and jeers from the crowd.

Paris Saint-Germain’s Thiago Silva, left, and Celtic’s Anthony Ralston challenge for the ball.
Paris Saint-Germain’s Thiago Silva, left, and Celtic’s Anthony Ralston challenge for the ball. Photograph: Scott Heppell/AP

Celtic, see, made this a proper contest even if the result was never in doubt. Ralston, an 18-year-old Champions League debutant undaunted by marking the world’s most expensive player, did a decent job of trying to subdue the Brazilian early on. Ralston may be a rookie but he bought none of Neymar’s initial tricks and tackled him like he meant to be remembered. So what if Neymar refused to shake hands with him afterwards.

He even tried to dupe his illustrious opponent with a stepover in the 13th minute before dashing to the byline to deliver a cross – but Neymar foiled that scheme.

For the second goal the MCN came to the fore, although not quite as planned.

Neymar nodded the ball across goal, Cavani missed it and Mbappé lashed it into the net. Cavani made no mistake when offered the chance to score from a penalty before half-time and a header late on – the latter two minutes after an own goal by Mikael Lustig.

But the MCN never reached full flow. Celtic forbade it and several misplaced pass and unread runs showed the trio are still not on exactly the same wavelength. “We are a team of movement, we feel our way,” Mbappé said last weekend. On this evidence, their movement is already rapid and elusive and, ominously for the rest of Europe, there is still plenty of scope for them to hone their feeling.

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