PSG plotting a move for Cristiano Ronaldo?
Paris Saint-Germain pay the highest wages and are certainly an elite club, but they’re not what they should be
In a lot of ways, Paris Saint-Germain are an elite club. The French team, for instance, pays the highest wages in Europe - maintaining an average salary of just under £5.3 million, ranking them ahead of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United and even the New York Yankees, if you’re looking for a wider comparison. Then there’s the names that have been drawn there in recent years: David Beckham, Carlo Ancelotti and of course, Zlatan Ibrahimovic. And yet, PSG aren’t quite the club they were meant to be by now.
Despite four years of lavish transfer market investment by owners Qatar Sports Investments, PSG find themselves in European football’s awkward no-man’s land. By beating Chelsea in the first knock-out round of last season’s Champions League the Ligue 1 side finally burst into the continent’s top bracket. Having lost to the London side the year before, it was a landmark win for Laurent Blanc’s side – “a dish best served… one year later,” as the club’s Twitter account put it.
However, against eventual winners Barcelona in the next round PSG were shown up, losing 5-1 on aggregate. If the Catalans are to be taken as European football’s gold standard, PSG have actually drifted further away from that mark since they exited the Champions League to them on away goals back in 2013. Then there was a sense of the French club’s impending supremacy. It hasn’t quite materialized that way, however.
The face on billboards
And so this summer could prove to be the most pivotal off-season in the short four-year development of ‘Project PSG.’ How the French club acts over the next few months could determine just how serious QSI remains to their original mission.
With Zlatan Ibrahimovic entering the twilight of his career, the urge for PSG to make a statement signing this summer is understandable. Without the Swede, Blanc’s side would lack a figurehead and a face to stick on billboards. They would certainly find one though if they were able to lure Cristiano Ronaldo to the Parc des Princes.
Recent speculation has indeed linked the Real Madrid superstar and incumbent Balon d’Or holder with an astonishing €120 million ($135.2 mln) move to the French capital. Such a transfer would, on the face it, underline PSG’s top-level status, but in truth they need more than just Ronaldo to prove that they are an elite club.
PSG must be shrewder this summer than last. It’s been three years since QSI bought Ibrahimovic, Beckham, Thiago Silva, Marco Veratti, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Gregory Van der Wiel and Lucas Moura all in the one transfer window, and in that time the club’s playing squad has been allowed to stagnate. PSG need to replenish the core of their team, and signing Ronaldo alone won’t do that. The Portuguese might be good - maybe even the best - but he cannot win games all on his own.
Being allowed to fester
Of course, the implantation of UEFA’s Financial Fair Play regulations has made it somewhat more difficult for PSG to challenge at the very top level of the transfer market, but they still found £50 million to sign David Luiz from Chelsea last season and close to £120 million the season before that for Edison Cavani, Marquinhos, Yohan Cabaye and Lucas Digne. The recent relaxation of FFP should only help them splurge such cash once again this summer.
Initially QSI’s accelerated plan to transform PSG - perennial underachievers - into a true footballing force worked. While Manchester City - another ambitious project funded through hefty Gulf investment - struggled to qualify for the Champions League - taking two years to get there - PSG made it to that level within just one season, progressing into the last 16 at the first attempt too.
City have since caught up with PSG, with the French Ligue 1 side now hitting their head against European football’s glass ceiling. It’s not just the club’s squad that has been allowed to fester, but QSI’s project as a whole - illustrated by their failure to attract a top-tier replacement for Ancelotti two years ago (Blanc was way down the owners’ wish-list).
The Parisians might pay the highest wages in football, but they are no longer the glittering, shimmering attraction they once were - simply because the prospect of a breakthrough into the elite is still merely an aspiration. Not even the potential signing of Ronaldo will change that perception.
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