December 9, 2012 by jstevenson0804
Following on from the recent examination of the rise and fall of Malaga CF, it is time to focus on another of the new breed of ‘superclubs’: Paris Saint Germain (PSG). Malaga has shown more moderate spending in comparison to Manchester City, but PSG more -closely represents the English champions’ spending patterns.
In 2011 the Qatar Investment Authority, led by Nasser Al-Khelaifi, purchased the French club (70% to start with) for €50 million. The impact was instant with a summer of strong recruitment including a French record €42 million for Argentinian playmaker Javier Pastore from Serie A side Palermo. Unfortunately his form has not lived up to the price tag, but he is starting to shine a little brighter. Only one other player was bought for more than €10m (Kevin Gameiro) but a total of €86 million was spent in 2011. Perhaps the shrewdest signings were the two goalkeepers, Nicolas Douchez on a free but more importantly Salvatore Sirigu for a mere €3.9 million (also from Palermo). It was in fact the latter that went on to be one of PSG’s most impressive players during the 2011-2012 campaign and firmly established himself as one of Europe’s best young goalkeepers, and certainly will be in contention for the Azzurri shirt once the legendary Gianluigi Buffon finally retires. In fact Buffon himself proclaimed Sirigu to be on a par with the likes of Manuel Neuer and Joe Hart – high praise indeed.
Even more shocking than the transfers was the behind-the-scenes changes. Former Brazilian star Leonardo was given the role of director and played a significant role in the signature of many Serie A stars – including the likes of Pastore and Sirigu. Faith was retained, for a short while, in Antoine Koumbare after the successful 2010-2011 season with PSG’s best finish for a number of seasons. However, then the madness began. In December 2011 Koumbare found himself sacked in spite of the club being top of Ligue 1 by one point. Pressures were extreme and the side had disappointed in the cups and in Europe, but still they were top of the table. After the controversial decision, former Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti was placed in charge. While some viewed the appointment was viewed with praise for the simple fact of enticing such a grand name, by the end of the season opinions were split. Having led in December, PSG could only finish second, still an improvement but not what was expected following the controversy.
The summer of 2012 saw a response to the ‘failure’ of the previous season: a response of even more excessive spending. Once again looking to Serie A, the biggest transfer of the summer saw Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva complete a joint €65 million move to the French capital. Surprisingly (for some) the giant Swede cost only €23 million of this with Thiago Silva warranting the second biggest fee for a defender ever. So far both players have justified their hefty price tags, with Ibrahimovic leading the scoring charts, scoring his 14th of the season in yesterday’s win. Thiago Silva too has shown his quality, albeit with some wayward performances along the way. He defends with effortless ease and is certainly among the very best centre-backs in the world.
However, it would be unfair to say that PSG is a two man team and certainly the other transfers have raised a few eyebrows along the way. Ezequiel Lavezzi, formerly part of Napoli’s deadly trio, cost a substantial €26 million. After some early season struggles, including a red card, he is now starting to release his Napoli form. He scored his first league goal of the season in yesterday’s game against Evian, after scoring the crucial winner in the Champions League earlier this week to send PSG through as group winners.
But these marquee transfers have not been the only big signings worth a mention. The most shocking has been the €40 million spent on Sao Paulo starlet Moura Lucas. The twenty-year-old has remained in Brazil and will make the move to Europe in January where there are very high expectations. His signing represents a more long-term approach. Another star of the future is the young Marco Verratti who made the move from Serie B runners-up Pescara for a weighty €12 million. After turning down advances from Juventus, the ‘new Pirlo’ made the surprising choice of Paris and has gone on to become a key figure in the centre of the park with his exceptional passing and vision.
However, for the Paris faithful there are two academy products making a name for themselves: Adrien Rabiot and Hervin Ongenda. Rabiot made an unexpected debut for the club earlier in the season and at the tender age of 17 has a long career ahead of him. Ongenda is an even more exciting prospect with a phenomenal scoring record at junior levels, often against players two older than him. Currently he is playing with the second team in the lower leagues, but with two goals in his 56 minute sub appearances it surely won’t be long before he makes the step up to the next level.
Results-wise this season has been a reasonable success. Qualification from the group stage of the Champions League was already assured heading into the final game, and a 2-1 win over Porto sent them through as group winners and unbeaten in the process. The league campaign got off to a shaky start with three draws in a row before an unbeaten spell lasting until November. This led them to the top of the table, before three defeats in their last five, including last weekend’s petulant display against Nice, saw them slip to fourth. Order was restored in yesterday’s game against Evian with a revitalised PSG coming away with a 4-0 victory. More significantly than the score line was the improved showing from Pastore and Lavezzi, as well as another terrific showing from the talismanic Swede. The real test will come next weekend when the current league leaders Lyon will make the trip to the Parc des Princes.
As with Malaga and Manchester City, the money of Al-Khelaifi has made an immediate difference. PSG were the biggest spenders in the 2011-2012 season and have already made great strides in becoming a top European team. Recent shaky form is likely just a result of competing on two fronts and PSG still very much remain in the title hunt, with Lyon president Remi Garde proclaiming PSG the favourites. Champions league success may well be prioritised but they do have the squad to be competitive at home and abroad. Even with the success the owners have spotted room for improvement. Ancelotti’s position has been questioned in recent weeks and Jose Mourinho has been tipped to be the man to replace him. Cristiano Ronaldo too has been linked with a record-breaking move to Paris, something which would certainly take the club to the next level.