Manuel Veth –
Despite investing plenty of money Paris Saint-Germain are once again out of the Champions League. While they were embarrassed at this stage by Barcelona in the round of 16 with a 6-1 defeat at the Camp Nou after a 4-0 home victory this time, they fell to a Real Madrid that has been struggling in La Liga.
As a result, the Qatari owners have been somewhat disappointed with head coach Unai Emery. In general, the coach took much of the blame on social media for his selection against Real Madrid. But instead of solely blaming Emery it might also be worth at looking at how Paris Saint-Germain spent their money.
After their epic collapse against Barcelona last season the Qatari owners quickly stepped up their chase for Brazilian superstar Neymar and eventually signed him for a record sum of €222 million. They then added Monaco striker Kylian Mbappé signing him on loan to buy deal that was designed to circumnavigate UEFA Financial Fair Play. The deal was structured in a way that PSG would not have to pay the €180 million until the moment that Paris achieved safety in the league, which meant that PSG did not have to pay the sum until the second half of the season.
Although technically that transfer did not go through until 2018 UEFA has questioned the deal and many financial experts believe that the Mbappé transfer construct should count as part of the 2017 budget. Other experts are not so sure they point out that even with the investment of over €400 million in two players PSG might meet UEFA Financial Fair Play regulations – they point out that a deal would be amortised over five years making the two transfers far more cost-effective given an increase in sponsorship and television revenue.
Paris Saint-Germain need Champions League money to make the Neymar deal work
For this construct to work, however, PSG would have needed Champions League success beyond qualification of the round of 16 in the Champions League. Now after going out against Real Madrid PSG’s owners face the fact that despite having invested over €1 billion in the last seven years the club has not won a single title in Europe.
PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaïfi told the media following the exit on Tuesday that the owners “were very annoyed” by the result. In the summer of 2012, Al-Khelaïfi told the German paper Sport Bild: “In the next two or three years we will win by further players. At the same time, we will also invest into our academy, and I am optimistic that we can strengthen our squad with players from our academy.”
While talents like Jean-Kevin Augustin, Kingsley Coman or Dan-Axel Zagadou, among others, had to leave PSG to get playing time PSG, however, kept investing in new players. The German transfer specialist page transfermarkt.de compared PSG’s spending with Europe’s current top three clubs Bayern, Barcelona and Real Madrid—the sides were picked as they won the last five Champions League trophies.
— Transfermarkt (@Transfermarkt) March 7, 2018
In those five years, Paris had a transfer balance of €-861 million, Barcelona €-397 million, Bayern €-301.3 million and Real Madrid, who won the title three times in the last five years, €-97 million. Despite investing far less the top three always at least managed to reach the quarterfinals of the tournament.
A point, of course, could be made that Paris Saint-Germain had to pay to catch up with the other big European clubs. As a result, the investment for PSG had to be much larger than for Bayern, Real or Barcelona, who have been prominent sides for many years. In fact, a similar phenomenon can be seen with Manchester City, who like PSG have been chasing the Champions League dream for years.
Whether that Champions League dream becomes a reality this season for City remains to be seen. But like PSG City seemed to have made the mistake that the Abu Dhabi United Group invested in the wrong key areas.
This brings us back to the above topic of signing Neymar and Mbappé for €400 million in the summer. For years Manchester City had focused on bringing in attacking players, which meant that Pep Guardiola found a heavily unbalanced squad last summer when he took over. As a result, Guardiola spent racked up a transfer deficit of €220 million by bringing in four new defenders in Danilo, Kyle Walker, Benjamin Mendy and Aymeric Laporte—the only attacking player signed this season was Monaco’s Bernardo Silva.
The new signings meant that City were now able to play the sort of football Guardiola envisioned. Unai Emery at PSG was never given that privilege. Instead of adding a much-needed midfield general and some strength in defence the coach was given even more depth in the attack.
PSG failed to invest money into key areas
The only defensive signings PSG made was the addition of Dani Alves, who seems to past his prime, and the relatively unknown Yuri Berchiche from Real Sociedad. An argument, of course, could be made that Emery needs to take the blame for not pressing for more additions in the back. But given the hell bend notion by the ownership to land Mbappé and Neymar was there any room within FFP to land defenders?
Furthermore, the creation of a large Brazilian contingent also led to rumours of discontent between different South American fractions within the dressing room with Edison Cavani and Angel di Maria on the one side and Neymar and Dani Alves on the other hand. Neymar, of course, would later go out with an injury, which further added to the tragic-comic circumstances at the club.
Given the firepower that PSG already possessed with Di Maria, Cavani, Draxler and the shunt Hatem Ben Afra, as well as Javier Pastore, were the additions of even more forwards even necessary? In fact, given that a player like Kingsley Coman had to leave the club to find playing time the entire PSG project becomes a significant question mark.
With this in mind, the match against Real Madrid was in some ways a symbol of new against old money. On the one side was the established order, which has learned how to spend its wealth in the right direction and on the other hand was a newly rich come-to-money-to-quickly playboy billionaire with tons of money but not the class to use it the right way. Hence, while Real are the luxurious Rolls Royce PSG are the golden plated Ferrari—a beautiful, fast car without the traction to stay on the road.
Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and among others works for the Bundesliga and Pro Soccer USA. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which will be available in print soon. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth. Or contact him via email: [email protected]