Looking at how the world of football has changed in recent years one would beg to differ. Sure, money might not buy happiness per se, but it can go a long way in buying success which, more often than not, translates into joy and happiness for players and fans alike.
This summer, money is succeeding in a seemingly impossible task – make people outside France talk about French football or, rather, a French team.
Arguably the only things French about PSG are the name and their origin, for they are coached by an Italian and their hopes of success rest on Argentine, Brazilian and Swedish shoulders, all arrived to the Parc des Princes thanks to Qatari investors – a quite heterogenous combination even for Paris’ multicultural standards.
Backed by the Qatar Investment Authority, the Parisian club entered the transfer market through the front door last season, splashing a French record £84.7 million, making them the biggest spenders in the world for the 2011-2012 season.
Despite the acquisitions of Javier Pastore, Jeremy Menez and, in the January transfer window, of Thiago Motta, former Chelsea man Alex and Brazilian full-back Maxwell, PSG were pipped to the Ligue 1 by newly promoted Montepellier – a bit like spending a fortune to buy the Eiffel Tower and finding yourself owning the Blackpool Tower.
So far this summer it hasn’t been so much a case of entering through the front door as of ripping the door off its hinges, with a display of financial firepower that would have had Arab heads nodding in approval in Manchester (the blue half, that is) as PSG secured the signings of Ezequiel Lavezzi from Napoli, Italian wonderkid Tommaso Verratti from newly-promoted Pescara, Thiago Silva from AC Milan for £33 million and are about to complete their window shopping in Serie A by poaching Zlatan Ibrahimovic from AC Milan with a deal worth an astonishing £11.4 million a year as the PSG’s owners have flexed their financial muscles yet again, making it not only impossible, but unthinkable for other French clubs to compete with them in the transfer market.
Clearly the fortune that Leonardo has spent on players has raised the expectations to a level where PSG are not only favourites to win the Ligue 1 title for the first time in years, they’re expected to run away with it and if they can produce a run in Europe long enough to have glamorous opponents at Parc des Princes until March/April, then tres bien.
But they could face a formidable opponent, not on the pitch or in the transfer market, but in the form of French president Francois Hollande who is determined to adopt austerity measures by digging deep into some of the richest pockets in the country.
The man that succeeded Nicolas Sarkozy delivered a statement that left little or no room to imagination: “We won’t put our hands in the pockets of the middle and working class men,” as his government is ready to table a proposal that, if approved, would see a 75% tax on salaries exceeding €1 million (£785,000).
With Ibrahimovic set to pocket €14.5m a year (£11.4m) making him the third-highest paid player in the word behind Samuel Eto’o (£15.7m) and Didier Drogba (£11.8m) it’s easy to imagine which club would be the worst hit, should the measures be approved.
It’s not only Ibrahimovic, though, who could see a large amount of salary poured into the French government’s coffins for the other PSG players, while not reaching the absurdly inflated paycheck of the Swedish international, are hardly pariahs – Thiago Silva’s deal is worth €9m (£7m) a year, Pastore’s €4.2m (£3.30), Thiago Motta’s €4.5m (£3.5m) and Lavezzi’s €4m (£3.2).
With the first part of Financial Fair Play regulations due to make their entry onto the stage next year and the government’s proposed austerity measures, will PSG simply offer bigger wages to contrast the fiscal regime or will the nouveau riche become Les Miserables?