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Fame Meets Reality within the Champions League

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If the misadventures of the Premier League’s moneyed elite within the Champions League this week served as a reminder of one in all this text’s mottos — that there are all the time more players, regardless of how lots of them you purchase — then the starting teams on the Parc des Princes brought one other to mind.

On one side, in fact, there was P.S.G., a team that’s rapidly becoming a definition of insanity in and of itself. It’s now perfectly apparent that constructing a team around Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappé doesn’t work, not on the elite level, not when all three of them essentially refuse to interact in any defensive effort. P.S.G. may yet get better from a primary leg deficit to Bayern Munich, but this will not be a side that may win the Champions League.

On the opposite was a Bayern team, its attacking line led by Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting. The Cameroonian striker suffers, as many do, from the long shadow of the Premier League.

He has spent the higher a part of a decade and a half as an expert. He has built a gentle, respectable profession, one crowned unusually late by trophy-laden spells at P.S.G. and Bayern. To many fans, though, he’ll all the time be a curiosity: Hey, take a look at that, it’s that guy who played for Stoke City, except that now he’s within the Champions League.

That could be a shame, because Choupo-Moting’s story is telling in plenty of ways. It proves, as he discussed with the Times, the worth of patience. The timing of his rise suggests a shift in what elite clubs want from forward players, and as a corollary perhaps highlights a deficiency within the academy system. That tends, in spite of everything, to supply what teams want now, slightly than what they could need in the long run.

Most of all, though, it illustrates that Choupo-Moting didn’t fail to shine at Stoke due to a scarcity of talent. Ability is usually not what determines whether a move is successful or not. More necessary is whether or not the team, the style, the environment is correct for a player to thrive. Choupo-Moting is evidence of the old truth that there is no such thing as a such thing as a foul player, only the flawed context.

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