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
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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.”


Man City humbled in 2-1 loss to Lyon in Champions League

City were humbled by French side Lyon in Manchester. (Reuters)
Updated 20 September 2018
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Man City humbled in 2-1 loss to Lyon in Champions League

  • City’s players were humbled 2-1 by Lyon in a sloppy and apathetic display at the start of their European campaign

MANCHESTER, England: If Manchester City wants to finally win a first Champions League title, it will have to start taking the competition a bit more seriously — on and off the field.
Surrounded by swathes of empty seats in the Etihad Stadium, City’s players were humbled 2-1 by Lyon in a sloppy and apathetic display at the start of their European campaign on Wednesday.
Banned from the touchline and unable to communicate with the bench, City manager Pep Guardiola did fill one seat in the stands and he saw his Premier League champions easily picked apart by the French visitors.
“We felt under threat every time we lost the ball and sometimes that brings the confidence a little bit lower,” said City assistant manager Mikel Arteta, who was in charge on the bench in Guardiola’s absence.
Errors by midfielder Fernandinho led to both Lyon goals, typifying how careless City was against a team that finished third in the French league last season and was even held to a draw at the weekend by 10-man Caen.
When a pass by the Brazilian midfielder was intercepted around the halfway line, Lyon charged forward. Nabil Fekir sent in a cross from the left that evaded Fabian Delph’s swinging legs, allowing Maxwel Cornet to slot it home in the 26th minute. Delph held his head in his hands as the consequences of his mistake became clear.
City’s troubles deepened when Fernandinho was caught in possession again. Memphis Depay set Fekir on a run and the forward doubled Lyon’s lead in the 43rd by striking through the legs of John Stones.
“It was a difficult game,” said Depay, who struggled to make an impact at Manchester United before leaving after two seasons in 2017. “But when we had the ball we tried to play and when we won the ball we tried to counterattack.”
Perhaps the only reason for City to feel aggrieved in the first half was Gabriel Jesus being denied a penalty when he was tripped by former Manchester United defender Rafael da Silva just before Depay scored.
“To concede two goals like we did is very frustrating,” Stones said. “We came in at halftime a bit deflated I think. But we picked ourselves up and we came out second half fighting and played a better second half.”
But the improvement wasn’t sufficient.
City pulled one back in the 67th when Bernardo Silva scored from substitute Leroy Sane’s cutback. But the attacking threat was too patchy from a City side that won the Premier League with a record 100 points only four months ago, and are widely seen as one of the big favorites in this season’s Champions League.
“I suffered as I was scared they’d score a second goal,” Lyon coach Bruno Genesio said. “We would have taken 2-2 before the match but given the way the game went we’d have been disappointed not to leave with the three points.”
With Hoffenheim and Shakhtar Donetsk also in Group F, City appeared to have one of the kinder draws but is now playing catch-up.
Celebrating a decade under Abu Dhabi ownership, which allowed City to assemble a squad for more than $1 billion, the Champions League is the one big prize the club has yet to win.
But City fans still have a fraught relationship with Europe’s premier competition.