PSG no closer to joining European elite despite $1 billion investment by Qatar

Paris Saint-Germain's players react after losing the Champions League round of 16 second-leg tie with Real Madrid. (AFP)
Updated 07 March 2018
0

PSG no closer to joining European elite despite $1 billion investment by Qatar

DOHA: Paris Saint-Germain’s latest bruising exit from the European football Champions League may have been particularly painful for two men watching among the almost 50,000-strong crowd at Parc des Princes.
High in the stands in the Paris stadium were Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani and the former ruler, his father Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, who together have helped bankroll the French team’s obsession with landing club football’s biggest prize: The European Cup.
Tuesday’s limp defeat, even if by Real Madrid, seems scant return for the more than €1 billion ($1.2 billion) poured into PSG since Qatar Sports Investments (QSI) bought the French club in 2011.
This was meant to be the year the club — having signed Neymar and Kylian Mbappe for a combined €402 million — joined European football’s elite.
Instead, PSG has failed to realize its ambitions, crucially at a time when Qatar is at the center of a bitter political conflict with neighboring former allies in the Gulf.
Even more galling for Qatar and PSG is that one of the favorites this year is Abu Dhabi-owned Manchester City.
Those involved with PSG say there is no chance of Qatar turning its back on the club.
“The project is not stopping,” said a source close to the club.
“The investment has been huge and is continuing.”
Nasser Al-Khelaifi, who simultaneously serves as chairman of QSI and president of PSG — in addition to being a tennis buddy of the current emir — spoke immediately after the humbling defeat about taking time to reflect, despite being “upset.”
“Short-term, the club’s Neymar-powered, Gulf feud-busting tactics would appear to be at an end,” said Simon Chadwick, a professor of Sports Enterprise at Britain’s Salford University and a member of a Qatari government sport think tank.
“Longer term, however, one senses it will be a case of keep calm and carry on.”
Success “requires sustained investment in talent acquisition and development,” he adds, not just the occasional big name signing.
Patience, though, is not a highly regarded virtue in modern-day football, even though the experience of “nouveau-riche” clubs such as England’s Chelsea and Manchester City demonstrate it takes time for a team to establish itself among Europe’s traditional elite.
For those directly involved with the day-to-day running of PSG, reflection on the Real defeat is likely to take the form of what to do with coach Unai Emery and Neymar.
Paris-based French football specialist Jonathan Johnson says the latest failure will see “heads roll” and even speculates that Khelaifi may be for “the chopping block.”
For Qatar, what to do next with PSG seems to be a matter of broader considerations, including international politics, diplomacy and finance.
The emirate has exploited sport to pursue a soft power approach to improving its global image.
This effort has reached its height in football, through PSG and the country’s winning bid to host the 2022 World Cup.
“Overall, there’s no doubt that Qatar’s six-year involvement with PSG has been a soft power success,” says Christopher Davidson, a professor in Middle East politics at Durham University.
Financing the PSG European dream though is key.
One billion euros may sound a lot but is equal only to a fortnight’s spending on World Cup preparations for Qatar.
And despite its vast gas riches, the boycott by its regional rivals has hit Doha’s economy.
“The economic blockade drags on and no real end is in sight,” Davidson said.
“Cutting through the extensive propaganda produced by both sides, there’s no doubt that the Qatari economy is feeling the squeeze.”


Godolphin happy with Thunder Snow ahead of Dubai World Cup defense

Updated 46 min 2 sec ago
0

Godolphin happy with Thunder Snow ahead of Dubai World Cup defense

  • Five-year old bidding to become first horse to win back-to-back Dubai World Cups.
  • $12 million race takes place at Meydan on Saturday.

LONDON: Thunder Snow is preparing well as he bids to become the first horse to win back-to-back Dubai World Cups, according to Godolphin trainer Saeed bin Suroor.
The five-year-old memorably won the showcase $12 million race at Meydan by five and three-quarter lengths, winning in a track record time last year. He returned to the track on Super Saturday two weeks ago, finishing second in the Group 1 Al-Maktoum Challenge Round Three.
And Godolphin are expecting big things from him in the famous race. Bin Suroor, the most successful handler in the history of the 2000m dirt feature with eight winners to his name, is feeling confident.
“He did his final serious piece of work on Saturday and went very well indeed,” the Godolphin trainer said. “He needed his Super Saturday outing — his first run since November — badly and has come on a lot for it. We expect him to run a big race under conditions we know suit him, but obviously it is a good race.”
Thunder Snow has already made history as the only horse to win both the Group 2 UAE Derby and Group 1 Dubai World Cup, but if he is to win this Saturday then he will be revered for years to come.
One of his big rivals in the race will be Yoshida. Trained by Bill Mott he arrived in Dubai on March 19 in preparation for the cash-rich race. The Japanese-bred son of Heart’s Cry landed in the Emirate off a sixth-place finish in the inaugural Group 1 Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational at Gulfstream Park.
He won the Turf Classic at Churchill Downs, as well as the prestigious Woodward at Saratoga last year and Riley Mott, assistant to his father Bob, said Yoshida is looking good ahead of the big race.
“He’s settled in really well,” he said. “He traveled great and we’re very happy with him. The facilities here are top class. This is my seventh time over here and we’re treated very well.”
Yoshida went out just after 7:00 a.m. in Monday to stretch his legs over the famous dirt track.
“He just had a routine gallop this morning and we let him stand in the gate. Nothing too serious,” Mott said.
Jose Ortiz, who has piloted Yoshida though his last two starts and was aboard for the Grade 1 score at Churchill Downs, will make his first appearance in Dubai. Mott said he expects Ortiz, who guided Yoshida to a closing fourth-place effort in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, will have plenty of options in the 2000m race.
“It sounds like there’s a lot of pace from the local horses, but we have a horse that’s pretty versatile in the way he runs,” Mott said. “He’s able to adapt to the pace scenario. It’s just a matter of how the race develops in front of him.”