After more than a decade of Qatari state ownership, PSG are at the precipice of a crossroads. Their owners need to decide if they want to create a functionally and logistically sound footballing institution capable of competing seriously for the biggest prizes in world football or continue to cultivate a hollowed-out, Harlem Globetrotters-esque sporting brand.
An Institution Built on Sportswashing
Firstly, to understand about PSG’s owners it is critical to establish their position as football club owners and how this differs from the classic variety. While fans of the game are all too familiar with the fact that most football clubs are run as a business – an equitable asset which the goal of owning is to improve the overall value – but PSG’s Qatar Sports Investment are a totally different animal.
Their ultimate goal is the projection of soft power and the assurance that their sports venue attracts the elite of French and world society and business, which explains their obsession with assembling a galacticos-style squad and their aim of winning the UCL. By copying the behavior of people who have recently come into inordinate sums of money, only the best will do. Need a center back? Pick the best one. Need to win a competition? Why the Champions League of course!
This notion that PSG require a Champions League to cement their status as a ‘top club’ remains among much of the footballing discourse. However, with so much money and an increasingly normalised culture of football club ownership of sovereign state owners, the club have essentially been dropped into a bottomless reserve of capital which renders any achievement they can have, a mere drop in the ocean financially speaking.
— Breaking The Lines (@BTLvid) May 7, 2023
Over the years, this ceaseless approach from the Qatar Sports Investment fund created the iconic images of David Beckham retiring in a PSG shirt and the monster unveiling of Lionel Messi, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Sergio Ramos, Achraf Hakimi and Georginio Wijnaldum. Appearance is far more important than substance with this type of ownership. And on the subject of appearance, their status as France’s capital club is something PSG take very seriously.
The incessant brandishing of the Eiffel Tower on every space available in their stadium in an attempt to firmly tie their fortunes to one of the most iconic cities in the world is plain to see. Only, as usual with them, their relation to the French capital is not one based in reality, since some of the best talents produced in the Île-de-France region usually play somewhere else.
Namely, Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kante and Kylian Mbappe stand as testaments to the goldmine of talent located around the French capital, yet only Mbappe currently plays for PSG and even he had to be brought in from Monaco for an eye-watering sum. Perhaps the most glaring example of this short-sightedness and disinterest in building a club ethos is Kingsley Coman, a former PSG academy product, who scored Bayern’s winning goal to defeat the Parisians in the 2020 Champions League Final.
Has the Focus Shifted?
This season, the club’s approach has altered outwardly. With the appointment of Luis Campos as footballing director and Christophe Galtier as manager, the desire seems clear to promote increased first-team chances for younger players and for these players to develop under a French manager. Campos is well known for unearthing gems and Galtier does not shy away from giving chances to young players.
Despite his strong start in the PSG hot seat, Galtier has presided over a dip in performance which has seen the club eliminated from both the UEFA Champions League and the Coupe de France. Add to that the recent revelations of his attitude towards Muslim players observing Ramadan, whilst the manager of Nice and the PSG faithful, who come from one of the most multicultural regions of France, are upset to still see him in the dugout.
In terms of the team, Messi’s contract expires in the summer and the Barcelona links seem to get louder and louder, whilst Neymar is struggling with his legacy in Paris. The ex-Santos man has been much maligned for his perceived lack of effort and the repetitive, vaguely described injury dotting much of his time in the French capital, but with a contract until 2025 and an eye-watering salary, getting him off their wage bill could be easier said than done.
PSG’s poster boy, Kylian Mbappe, looked set for a move to Real Madrid this summer but had a last-minute change of heart. It is plausible that his ambition will make him lose patience with a project who always sets short-term goals for itself, only to fail them miserably. Whilst it seemed that he had renewed his contract until 2025 last summer, it was actually until 2024 — only Mbappe can exercise the option to extend his deal through 2024, not PSG.
Amongst this turmoil, the PSG leadership might be in crisis mode leading them to desperately try to implement changes to improve the club’s fortunes over the long term. Alternatively, they might just be thinking about how the hospitality boxes at the Parc de Princes can be expanded in order to accommodate an endless slew of politicians and businessmen they wish to steer towards doing business with their burgeoning petrostate.
By: Eduard Holdis / @He_Ftbl
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Remy Gabalda / AFP