That kiss, that embrace, suggested that in defeating Real Madrid — not just defeating, but stripping away its luster, cracking apart its identity, exposing all that is bare and empty beneath in a 3-0 thrashing — Tuchel feels Gueye, so unassuming as to be almost surreptitious, is starting to do just that.
It is not just superstars who can change the character of a club, who can alter the direction of a game, or a season. There was a moment, after Gueye had been running for 80 long minutes, up and down, up and down, when Karim Benzema picked up the ball just inside his own half.
There was no real danger. Real Madrid, trailing by 2-0 by that stage, was beaten, though the third goal — the one that compounded the humiliation, P.S.G.’s two fullbacks exchanging passes in Real’s box, taunting Europe’s most illustrious club — did not arrive until a little later. The game should have been idling toward its inevitable close.
Gueye does not really work like that, though. Instead, he darted back to Benzema, burst into a tackle, swept the ball away from him, picked himself up, and passed it rapidly forward, searching for another goal. The Parc des Princes roared and crowed and sensed blood. This has always been a blue-collar club, just one with a lavish, state-funded “sporting project” artificially imposed upon it. It is a club that identifies more easily with martial values than superstar indulgence.
The tackle summed up P.S.G.’s performance, a performance that could have only come in the absence of Neymar and, for all that neither of them lack work ethic, Kylian Mbappé and Edinson Cavani. It was a performance, and a victory, rooted in talent, of course — Ángel Di María’s two goals were sumptuous — but in effort and intelligence, application and energy: Gueye’s traits, in other words.