Late equaliser against Barcelona is given added weight by the injuries to Lionel Messi and Javier Mascherano
An hour or so after the final whistle, David Beckham stopped to talk in one of the corridors at Parc des Princes. It was not particularly what he said that stood out. It was more his demeanour. It had been a great occasion and the great players love to be involved in the great occasions. These are the moments Beckham will miss when he decides the legs are in danger of failing him.
What he would not have known at that stage was that L'Equipe had marked his performance as three out of 10, lower than any other person on the pitch bar David Villa of Barcelona. Beckham never spoke to the Manchester Evening News again after it awarded him a six for one match (Nicky Butt had scored a seven). Another time, he and Gary Neville pointedly held up their fingers to show they wanted eights and nines when the bus carrying Manchester United's players passed the newspaper's correspondent on the motorway. More recently, Beckham sent a personalised message via his agent – you can guess the words – to one newspaper that had described him as washed up.
It is fair to say he will not have appreciated L'Equipe's assessment that "Carlo Ancelotti's poker move was not a great choice" or that he was "one-paced" and had "limited impact," leaving his midfield colleague Blaise Matuidi "to fight for both of them".
Harsh? Gary Lineker had praised Beckham for controlling the match from his "quarterback" role during the first half. Conversely, a former PSG player could also be heard in an off-the-record conversation after the match saying Beckham was the team's worst performer and should not have been involved.
The truth probably is somewhere in between. Beckham, four weeks away from turning 38, was competent yet unremarkable. He passed the ball neatly for the most part, as he always did, but not flawlessly and it did feel incongruous at times seeing him in such esteemed company at this stage of his career. As L'Equipe noted, it was him losing the ball that led to the attack from which Dani Alves clipped that wonderful pass off the outside of his boot for Lionel Messi to score. More than anything, he was starting to look weary by the time he was substituted. It had been a frenetic pace for the first leg of a Champions League knockout tie.
PSG had played with a sense of ambition that is not always found when Barcelona are the opponents and the drama of those final exchanges, culminating in Matuidi's equaliser with the last kick of the match, left the stadium with a sense of exhilaration. The Parisian crowd – raucous, hostile, unrelenting – can feel a little more now like the team belong at this level. Yet hard analysis must bring conflicting emotions, too. On the one hand, the Ligue 1 leaders had shown they can live with the most devastating team around. On the other, 2-2 still leaves Barcelona in a position of command ahead of Wednesday's game at Camp Nou. There has been only one occasion, against Bayern Munich in 1996, when they have been eliminated from this position before.
Can PSG do it? Certainly the task looks less daunting as a result of Lionel Messi being in danger of missing the match. Messi's exact prognosis has not been revealed, other than confirmation he will not play this weekend, but players seldom recover from hamstring injuries within the space of a week and the players are already preparing without him.
"It's a challenge for us to show we can do it without Messi," Alves said. The more serious blow, given Barcelona's shortage of specialist centre-halves, might actually be the knee-ligament damage suffered by Javier Mascherano, an injury that would also rule him out of both legs of the semi-final. That Mascherano was playing in this position tells its own story and, with Carles Puyol and Adriano Correia also ruled out, it may be that another of their youth-team products, Marc Bartra, has to deputise.
Eric Abidal has just returned to the squad after having a liver transplant and the only other real option is to experiment with either Sergio Busquets or Alex Song as centre-backs. Whichever option they take, it is not ideal when the opposition has Zlatan Ibrahimovic at the spearhead of its attack, with Ezequiel Lavezzi, Javier Pastore and Lucas running off at all angles.
A side of Barcelona's refinement should be able to get by. Yet they will miss Messi, plainly, at a time when Villa is not the player he was and Alexis Sánchez appears to be struggling for form. Messi's first-half strike means he has 59 goals in the Champions League, joint third in the all-time list with Andriy Shevchenko.
His injury is also a reminder of just how few games he actually misses. The Argentinian has not had a muscle injury since November 2009 when he missed two games against Real Madrid and Internazionale. The bad news for PSG and the 37-year-old in the centre of their midfield: Barcelona won them both.