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.”


THINGS WE LEARNED FROM THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: Peerless Paul Pogba, hapless PSG and sloppy City

Updated 20 September 2018
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THINGS WE LEARNED FROM THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: Peerless Paul Pogba, hapless PSG and sloppy City

After the first round of Champions League matches we look at the main talking points from club football’s biggest competition.

PSG WILL NOT WIN THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE THIS SEASON

This is the one tournament the French club want to win, they are virtually assured of winning 
Ligue 1 year after year and in the glamor stakes the French top-flight does not quite cut it. Qatar has thrown a lot of cash at the capital club and in return PSG have some great players to thrill the fans — Neymar, Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappe make one heck of a front three. But while they have great individuals they do not have much of a team. The side’s 3-2 defeat at Liverpool highlighted everything that is wrong about the moneybags side, the attackers allowed to drift wherever they want, without much purpose and end result. The scoreline flattered the French side, make no mistake about it, Liverpool won at a canter. PSG get away with it in French football, but come the tough examinations in Europe they will get found out time and again.


POGBA SENDS A MESSAGE TO MOURINHO

If reports are to be believed it would seem Jose Mourinho has a fairly frosty relationship with Paul Pogba. It has been rumored that the Frenchman is keen to leave Manchester United and that the Portuguese boss would not do much to persuade him to stay. But on the evidence of Pogba’s performance in United’s 3-0 win at Young Boys in Switzerland Mourinho would be well advised to do everything in his power to keep the midfield maestro. The 25-year-old dominated the clash and showed exactly why he is, on his day, the best midfielder on the planet. He scored twice, to now give him four goals in six matches, having managed six last season for the club and nine in the previous campaign. His opener at Young Boys saw him make a run from midfield to near the area before a brilliant left-foot finish soared into the back of the net. Mourinho praised his captain after the match and will doubtless set about trying to prise that sort of performance from his main man week in, week out.


CITY ARE LESS THAN SLICK

Having coasted to the Premier League title last season, breaking numerous records along the way, City were favorites to win the Champions League this year. But one game in, a shock defeat at home to Lyon, and there appear to be cracks in the side. The 2-1 loss was a huge shock and for once the slick passing and ability to create chances galore were noticeable by their absence. Once they fell behind, Pep Guardiola’s men looked as if they could not think on their feet, unable to work out why they were not brushing aside a team that have failed to challenge for the French title for several years. It is only one match, but as starts to a campaign go, it could not have gone much worse.