There is a motto in both life and football that rings true in almost every situation: “money doesn’t buy you happiness”. Which translates in the football world to: “money doesn’t guarantee you success”.
The purchase of Paris Saint-Germain in 2011 by the Qatar Investment Authority was a landmark moment in French football – for never before had a club from France been lavished with such riches as those provided by Nasser Al-Khelaïfi and his huge investment in the Parisienne team. That he has bankrolled just over £273 million in player investment over the last three years is astonishing – and a huge amount for a club, which is, by its own admission a “new player” at the very top table of both World and European football. Yet, despite the vast outlay, PSG are currently underachieving.
With just four Ligue 1 titles in their youthful forty-four year history, PSG are seen by their domestic rivals as that fortunate younger sibling that has scooped the national lottery upon purchase of its first ever ticket. Whilst not geographically their closest rivals, Marseille offer PSG their sternest test on home shores, but offer a more trusting, and illustrious history of honours, which includes nine Ligue 1 titles, and a Champions League success, back in 1993. Even Lyon, who hadn’t won the title until the early noughties, went on the rampage that decade, scooping everything before them.
Controversy has of course surrounded PSG this summer in the same way a black cloud has hung over English champions, Manchester City. New financial regulations – which neither club complied with – have seen the duo hit with large fines to incentivise a lower spending strategy, and reduced playing squads for their Champions League campaigns. Every other side is permitted to begin the Champions League campaign with a squad of 25 players – yet both City and PSG have only been allowed to submit 21. Does this have a detrimental effect on PSG’s chances of success this season? Continentally yes, but domestically no.
Having won the last two league championships, PSG could well be on track to emulate this – but only if they can get their act together, after what can only be described as a poor start to this campaign. Saturday’s sluggish 1-1 draw in Toulouse only goes to show where the current champions are – unbeaten – but only two wins in their opening five games is way below the bar of expectancy of “Les Rouge-et-Bleu” in the French capital.
However, five points already separate fourth placed PSG from early pace setters Marseille, who will this year also be looking to punish rivals AS Monaco, who have somewhat unexpectedly imploded this summer – financial difficulties forcing a sell off of the cream of the club’s talent. So for PSG, this is not a season to be left behind – and they will be looking to kick start their stuttering form as soon as possible.
Manager Laurent Blanc is now overseeing his second year at the helm, and was, by no means, first choice for the position in the summer of 2013, when championship winning manager Carlo Ancelotti upped sticks for the Bernabéu, and Real Madrid. Unable to attract a more “high profile” name to the role, Blanc very much arrived in Paris with no more than a wet whimper. Would he be able to galvanise such big names as Zlatan Ibrahimović? Would he be able to get the best out of Edinson Cavani? But more importantly, would he be the driving force behind the illustrious names the Qataris want to see pulling on the shirt?
Could a Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi finally be tempted with the Eiffel Tower, and a significant pay increase? Either could arguably earn a lot more in France, yet the pull of PSG isn’t quite there – as it isn’t with the top English teams either. Yet, they still spent an incredible £50 million on David Luiz, Chelsea’s maverick Brazilian defender, and highly mocked national captain.
Perhaps this is the real crime of the story here. Expectations have soared through the roof, yet the foundations of the club have not been properly laid – and with a cap on future spending after the fine of this summer very prevalent in Paris, perhaps Al-Khelaïfi will get bored with his “toy”, and look to plant his wealth elsewhere.
Like so many other rich foreign investors, he has no real affection for the club after all – it will only be one of a number of investments he already owns, and nothing more than a business model.
With a marquee Champions League clash at home to Barcelona this week, hopes will be very high once again that not only France, but the world will see the force that PSG are so desperate to become. Ligue 1 is their “bread and butter” though, and this is where their form will certainly need to improve if PSG are going to become a French légende.
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