PSG does what it wants

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In France the football championship was won by Paris Saint-Germain already in April, yet the last day, played on May 21, was equally awaited for the decision of Kylian Mbappé (who many have compared to that of LeBron James, twelve years ago). The French striker, one of the most coveted players by European clubs and most loved by the new generations, had his contract expired and for months it looked like he was going to end up at Real Madrid. But when the time came to decide, he chose to stay at PSG, the team in his city.

Mbappé explained that he was close to Real Madrid, but that he chose to stay because PSG is his team and France is the country he wants to live in. According to the most shared reconstructions, to convince him would have been family and acquaintances, even an intervention by the French president Emmanuel Macron, but above all the Qatari royal family owner of PSG, very determined to keep him next to the other two champions already in the team, the Brazilian Neymar and the Argentine Lionel Messi. Together, the three players are the image in the world of PSG and will also be the image of the World Cup in Qatar, wanted and organized at any cost by the royal family itself.

It is not known exactly which agreements Mbappé has wrested from PSG ownership and they will hardly know each other, but in all likelihood they are higher than those Real Madrid was willing to grant him, that is 25 million euros net per season and a bonus on signing 100 million gross.

Nasser Al-Khelaifi and Kylian Mbappé (AP Photo / Michel Spingler)

Mbappé’s failure to transfer to Real Madrid marked another moment of clash between the Spanish league and PSG, after the one born from the transfer of Neymar from Barcelona to Paris in 2017. In a statement published on 21 May, the management of La Liga has written: “These agreements attack the economic stability of European football, putting thousands of jobs and the integrity of sport at risk, not only in continental competitions, but also in national leagues”. The statement goes on to say: “It is a scandal that a club like PSG, which last season had losses of more than 220 million euros – and before that of 700 million overall – has a team that costs 650 million and can still conclude. agreements of this kind “.

The Spanish league then filed a complaint with UEFA for violations of the financial rules – as it had done in the past, initially obtaining sanctions, however canceled by the Sports Arbitration Tribunal – in defense of “clubs that could have afforded Mbappé’s signing without compromising their budgets “. In this case, La Liga makes a clear reference to Real Madrid and indicates what the point of the question is, for its part: not the amount of money a team decides to invest, even on a single player, but the sustainability of these investments. and compliance with the rules that should maintain a minimum of competitiveness in European football.

Before the pandemic, Real Madrid was one of the highest-turnover football clubs in the world and was approaching one billion admissions per season year after year. PSG in 2019 had reached the highest point in its history with over 600 million euros in turnover, however made possible in large part by revenues derived from Qatari groups linked to its ownership, a practice that UEFA has then interrupted or at least limited .

– Read also: But how does PSG do it?

In the last year, due to the pandemic, revenues have generally fallen, but Real Madrid remain among the top teams in the world, with 640 million in turnover in 2021, while PSG lags behind, with revenues of just over 500 million. . Yet the latter continues to spend more than any other team in Europe, so much so that it has managed to bring together the three most fans and famous players in the world – with the exception of Cristiano Ronaldo – without however obtaining the successes they expected, also due to evident offensive imbalance of the built team.

What seems to divide PSG the most from clubs that spend as much as Real Madrid, Barcelona (at least before its financial crisis) and Manchester City (another team with ownership attributable to a royal family, from the UAE) is the nature of the investment. . The first two have a very solid history and have come to be what they are in over a century of victories. Like City, they compete to win and to make a profit, and often they succeed. In PSG, the pursuit of profit has often been conveyed by tricks and the cost of winning is disproportionate: last season, to finish second in the league behind the little Lille, he spent an average of 6 million euros for each point obtained in the league, more than any other team in Europe. And this before signing Messi, Donnarumma, Ramos and Hakimi in a single summer.

Since being owned by Qatar, PSG’s economic conduct has come under scrutiny several times, but the club has always avoided the heaviest penalties. In 2014 he was initially punished for having raised the proceeds through sponsorship contracts stipulated with neighboring companies or controlled by the property itself, but already the following year the penalties were eased to “reward” the new conduct of the company, which among other things had to decrease the very rich sponsorship of the Qatar Tourism Authority, a government body linked to the property.

Messi, Neymar, Mbappe and Hakimi (Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)

In the past two years, the losses caused by the pandemic have prompted UEFA to relax its financial rules as a form of support for clubs. Furthermore, the so-called financial fair play is in a revision phase that is creating a regulatory vacuum, pending the new regulation that will come into force from the 2023/2024 season. PSG, as happened in the past, is taking advantage of this gray area and for over a year has returned to spending with great ease: in the midst of the pandemic it allowed itself the signing of the most famous player in the world, Messi, and then convinced Mbappé to stay.

At Messi’s presentation, President Al-Khelaifi said, “We have been following the financial regulations from day one. Before acting we always examine the commercial and financial aspects of the operations. We knew we could sign Messi and today what Messi is bringing to the club is enormous ». In the rest of European football, however, what PSG is doing is increasingly referred to as “financial doping” supported by a tiny state with fewer than 3 million inhabitants which, however, can count on the ninth richest sovereign wealth fund in the world and one availability of over 320 billion dollars, which makes even the largest losses of a secondary and non-strategic investment such as PSG irrelevant.

Years ago the US ambassador in Doha wrote in a report that Qatar “would have found itself with so much money that it didn’t know what to do”. A part of that gigantic surplus has been used in sport and above all in football, considered one of the most immediate and effective means of obtaining visibility, and in particular good visibility. These ambitions have led to the awarding of a World Cup that will have to be played in winter for the first time and in places where before 2010 there was nothing but desert. The purchase of PSG was concluded the following year, and since then the Parisian team has become the de facto investment that introduced Qatar into football in anticipation of the World Cup.


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