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

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.”

BMW’s Antonio Felix da Costa crowned champion at Saudi Arabia's Ad Diriyah E-Prix

Updated 15 December 2018

BMW’s Antonio Felix da Costa crowned champion at Saudi Arabia's Ad Diriyah E-Prix

  • The Portuguese driver held on for victory ahead of Techeetah’s Jean-Eric Vergne and Jerome d’Ambrosio in the Mahindra car
  • Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi had the best start on the grid

AD DIRIYAH, Riyadh: Antonio Felix da Costa praised his BMW garage but said there is still a lot of work for him and the team to do in this year’s Formula E season after winning the inaugural Ad Diriyah E-Prix on Saturday.

Da Costa was on pole from the beginning of the race and led away from the line, despite lining up at the front of the grid pointing toward the outside wall at a dusty and overcast Ad Diriyah circuit.

The Portuguese driver held on for victory ahead of Techeetah’s Jean-Eric Vergne and Jerome d’Ambrosio in the Mahindra car.

Da Costa told Arab News that the new “cooler and futuristic” Gen 2 car gives drivers more power, stability and grip, and that there was “a lot to take in” during the race.

“It is a new car, a new track, a new way of racing, (with) ‘Attack Mode’, and I got the ‘Fan Boost’ for the first time, so there were a lot of things to do and as a team and we executed so well, so I think that is why we won today because we were not the quickest car but we just had a perfect race.

“It is amazing, it’s been really tough and long months of work, but I am really happy with that,” da Costa added.

“We definitely have some work to do as the two Techeetah cars were really fast, and even with (Vergne’s) drive through penalty, he was right there at the end.

“But it’s a good start and we’ll keep working on that and try to keep it going,” he added.

When asked about BMW being involved in Formula E as a factory team for the first time, da Costa said: “It hasn’t been easy the last two years, but as I said it has been a lot work between Indianapolis with Andretti and Munich with BMW, it is great to see and I am so happy for everyone back in Munich.”

Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi had the best start on the grid after he blasted by Jose Maria Lopez around the outside of the first corner from third place.

The front four pulled away from the rest of the pack, before Vergne — who started the race in fifth — passed Lopez on lap one of what would become a 33-lap race, with his teammate Andre Lotterer also getting past the Geox Dragon driver.

As da Costa consolidated his lead, Vergne was closing in on Buemi, eventually passing him in a great move around the outside on lap nine. The Frenchman then set about reeling in da Costa, with the Portuguese offering fierce resistance.

Vergne was then forced to serve drive-through penalties – just after he had used his first “attack mode” – for going exceeding the permitted power while using his “re-gen,” which put paid to him getting a victory.

Reigning champion Vergne, while impressed with the venue, was philosophical after the race.

“I was really hungry for a victory today, but the qualifying in the morning did not go as planned.

“Unfortunately, it was a step down from where I wanted to be, I wanted to win this one. 

“I had a fantastic car, it was incredibly fast, but a big congratulations to the BMW guys and Antonio, it was a well-deserved victory.

“What I will take as a positive from this weekend is that we have a strong team and a very strong car and I am very motivated.

“Going forward, we just need to make sure we don’t make the same mistakes that cost us the win today, but it’s a very encouraging first race and I’m looking forward to Marrakech now.”

On his drive through penalty, he said: “Yes, I had quite a few overtakes on the outside, on the inside, but it was a fun race, I honestly had a lot of fun. 

“I’m content with P2 today, and hoping to keep this package (on the car) and hopefully get some victories.”
Meanwhile, third-placed d’Ambrosio was delighted with his finish to the race.

“I am super happy, it was a great first race with Mahindra and a great start to the championship, I am lucky to be part of such a great team with some great people.

“I have come from two difficult years, so it’s great to start this new relationship with the team in this way. We worked very hard in the past few months to be ready, I think we were very fast but at the end of the race I didn’t have the confidence in the braking.

“But it makes a great to start to the season, with the podium and banking the points, and we’ll see what happens now.”

When asked about the new “attack mode” in Formula E, he said: “It is great, I actually wasn’t supposed to use it at that point of the race (when I did), but I had a good feeling and I saw Techeetah use it and start to build a gap, so I went for it and when the safety car came in I used it again.”