This summer has been a funny one thus far for transfer activity, in England we have more scandal regarding the arrival and departure of managers than we have players, but things are picking up. In Europe the transfer market seems buoyant with plenty of activity already, but some of it is a little surprising. Malaga seem to be constantly in the headlines in Spain and French club Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) are linked with every name under the sun. So what is going on with these two clubs? Football Rascal investigates starting with PSG.
Now you probably have heard of PSG before, they are the only top-flight team from Paris and one of the most prestigious teams in France. You may remember their stadium, the Parc des Princes, as a venue in the 1998 World Cup, which hosted landmark games such as when Belgium drew 1-1 with South Korea! During the tournament the stadium saw a brace from Ronaldo for Brazil, as well as a Gabriel Batistuta hat-trick for Argentina, so it wasn’t all doom and gloom but luckily for the PSG fans the team had some serious talent of their own.
World-class players like Claude Makélélé, George Weah, Paul Le Guen, Bernard Lama, David Ginola, Rai, Youri Djorkaeff, Jay-Jay Okocha, Nicolas Anelka, Ronaldinho, (I could go on – the list is long and distinguished) have graced the Parc des Princes week in, week out.
A lot of the players listed were bought with money injected by French media outlet Canal+ who started buying shares in the club in 1991 and by 1997 they had full ownership. They funded some crazy transfers at the time: Jay-Jay Okocha became the most expensive African player in 1998 when PSG paid $24m for his services. They also weren’t shy in paying €33.2m to Real Madrid to bring Anelka back to the club he started at.
Canal+ and sportswear giant Nike were the catalysts behind a lot of PSG’s success in the 90’s; Canal+ hyped up ‘Le Classique’, (the French equivalent of Real v Barcelona) a match between PSG and Marseille that increased tension between fans and also increased pay-per-view sales of the game on Canal+. Nike were keen to be push the club to make marquee signings and increased their brand visibility; Nike knew that signings like Jay-Jay Okocha would make them bigger in emerging markets like Africa.
But times change and it came as no surprise when Canel+ wanted out, PSG were in trouble on the pitch and behind the scenes; although PSG previously boasted some of the world’s best players, had success in European and domestic competitions, since the late 1990’s they underachieved and played second fiddle to the likes of Lyon, Marseille and Monaco. But the major problem was that from a business perspective the club was in turmoil. They were being investigated after alleged dodgy dealings regarding player transfers, the payment of certain players wages (Nike’s role was also investigated), corruption allegations, non-payment of taxes – it was all a bit of a mess at the French capital’s only club.
Fast forward to 2011 and things seem to be back on track for PSG. They have been bought by Qatar Sports Investments (QSI) who initially secured 70% of the club from an investment group back in May and hope to complete a full take-over this summer. QSI are no mugs and have seen the potential of the Paris club, but their potential is nothing new:
“PSG is the only club in the world which is based in an area of 10 million inhabitants and doesn’t have any competition…What needs to be done is to get a group of investors around the table to provide the club with some financial muscle.” Arsene Wenger
We have seen how a bit of ‘financial muscle’ has improved the fortunes of Manchester City and how quickly the structure of the club changed from board to management, supported by an influx of high-profile signings and PSG won’t be any different.
They have already appointed previous fans favourite Leonardo as manager, who arrives after some success in the hot-seats of both Milan giants Inter and AC. This may have been the clubs first high profile signing, but it certainly won’t be their last.
On the playing side they have already beaten off competition from top European clubs to secure the services of Lorient’s French international striker Kevin Gameiro for €11m and the signings are not going to stop there. They are linked with a whole host of Europe’s elite players from in-demand Palermo midfielder Javier Pastore (who Chelsea, Barcelona and Real Madrid have been linked with & Leonardo knows all about) to Dimitar Berbatov who looks to be on his way out of United.
If Leonardo can get it right at PSG, attract the players they need and mix them with the clubs talented youngsters, like Ligue 1 young player of the year Mamadou Sakho, then the fans will be optimistic that the club can not only return to domestic glory, but European glory as well. With a reported transfer fund of €150m their can’t be too many players out of the reach of PSG, something that will only enhance competition in the ever improving Ligue 1.
PSG are defiantly a club to watch, not only this summer but over the course of the next 5 seasons. Don’t be surprised to see them paying top dollar for some of the world’s best talent and don’t be surprised if they are Ligue 1 champions within two seasons and make a challenge for the Champions League. This will be a great test to see if money really can buy success, but PSG are not the only ones with cash to splash…