Christophe Galtier’s Lille had only lifted the top-flight title in France once since 1954 – securing their last triumph when Mbappe was 12 years old – and are thought to pay their entire squad a salary that is little more than half of Neymar’s reported annual earnings of around $64 million.
While PSG owners Qatar Sports Investments might have expected a fourth successive title to be little more than a formality at the start of the season for a side with ambitions of Champions League glory, the expensively-assembled European giants have frequently faltered badly, failing to win 12 of their 38 league matches and losing eight times along the way.
Never one to shy from drama, Neymar missed a penalty and was booked for dissent in the first half at Brest, who finished just a point above the relegation zone.
Romain Faivre’s own goal before the break and a strike from Mbappe, the division’s top scorer, with 19 minutes remaining ensured PSG signed off with a win which was not enough to save their title defense.
Impressive throughout a season in which they have lost only three times, Lille survived a last-gasp scare at Angers to secure a 2-1 win that allowed their wild celebrations to begin, finishing top by a point.
Ronaldo and Juventus endured an equally nerve-shredding finale as their season went down to the wire in their bid to salvage a poor campaign with the fourth-placed finish they needed to secure Champions League football.
If the prospect of one of the greatest strikers of all time playing in the Europa League next season seemed unthinkable, Juventus’s uncertain form throughout their title defense – slumping from challengers to a team desperate to finish in the top four in recent months – had made that outcome a distinct possibility.
Fans across the world might now be relieved that the rumors of a transfer for Ronaldo will not go into overdrive after his team qualified for the flagship competition by a whisker, anxiously waiting for confirmation on the pitch despite cruising to a 4-1 win at midtable Bologna.
Their talisman could have played his final game for the club before their crucial encounter even started, as beleaguered boss Andrea Pirlo left the Serie A top scorer as an unused substitute in the decider.
What mattered more was Napoli’s result. The team who started the day in fourth and could have denied Juventus a place at the top table of European football next season with a win were only able to draw 1-1 at home to Verona, spurning the lead by conceding an equalizer with 21 minutes remaining.
It proved an almighty relief for Juve, whose season will now not go down as a total disaster after a turbulent few weeks that have included their much-maligned involvement in the doomed European Super League, of which chairman Andrea Agnelli was a heavily-criticized ringleader.
“It was a shared decision,” Pirlo told DAZN of the decision to axe his superstar striker for such an important game. “Ronaldo was tired after Wednesday’s game, so I decided to start [Alvaro] Morata, another great player.
“Ronaldo was available. I have a deep squad and I can pick many different players.”
The move will inevitably still drive debate around Ronaldo’s future after the Portugal captain was said to have shifted some of his cars away from Turin this month.
“It was important to finish the job: winning the Coppa Italia and qualifying for the Champions League, which was a very important target,” said Pirlo.
“I’ve always put in the total commitment, and this is the result. Those who must decide [my future] will do it.
“I see myself on the Juve bench next season. I would confirm myself, but now we must enjoy what we have achieved.”
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