Record ar­rivals to help ful­fil PSG’s Euro dream

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPORTS -

RARELY has a club made a sim­i­lar state­ment of in­tent to dom­i­nate Euro­pean football than Paris Saint-Ger­main in re­cent weeks ahead of their to­mor­row’s opener at Scot­land’s Celtic.

The French side first ac­ti­vated a € 222m re­lease clause for Ney­mar to smash the trans­fer world record, and on the last day of the trans­fer win­dow also se­cured the ser­vices of teenager Kylian Mbappe.

The Brazil cap­tain Ney­mar and im­mensely gifted French for­ward Mbappe are to fi­nally de­liver suc­cess in the con­ti­nen­tal show­case event.

PSG have never gone be­yond the quar­ter­fi­nals and suf­fered their worst-ever de­feat last year when af­ter a 4-0 home tri­umph they crashed 6-1 in Barcelona – with Ney­mar scor­ing twice and set­ting up two oth­ers as a then Barca player.

The game may well have con­vinced PSG for good to go for him, and some sug­gest it also showed Ney­mar that it was time to move on be­cause not his hero­ics took cen­tre stage but once again team­mate Lionel Messi – in a fa­mous post-match photo with the fans.

Founded in 1970 and once owned by fash­ion de­signer Daniel Hechter, PSG have never been shy to pay big ever since the club was taken over in 2011 by Oryx Qatar Sports In­vest­ments (QSi) and its head Nasser Al-Khe­laifi be­came PSG pres­i­dent.

Dom­i­na­tion in France but even more a Cham- pi­ons League tro­phy at last were the goals for the am­bi­tious project for which hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars have been made avail­able over the years. Play­ers in­cluded the likes of Edison Ca­vani and Zla­tan Ibrahi­movic and Carlo Ancelotti is among past coaches, with Unai Emery now in charge. But a new level has been reached by the sign­ing of Ney­mar and Mbappe, whose full trans­fer from Monaco next year af­ter a cur­rent loan could be worth in the re­gion of € 180m. It went al­most un­no­ticed that an­other ex-Barca player, Dani Alvez, also ar­rived, from last sea­son’s Cham­pi­ons League run­ners-up Ju­ven­tus. Ney­mar in­sisted he came to win trophies and not for the money, and Mbappe has echoed this. “I re­ally wanted to be a part of the club’s project, which is one of the most am­bi­tious in Europe. Along­side my new team­mates, I in­tend to con­tinue my pro­gres­sion while help­ing the team achieve the very big ob­jec­tives it has set it­self,” he said. Al-Khe­laifi mean­while re­it­er­ated the Euro­pean am­bi­tions but re­fused to give a time frame. “Our aim is to win the Cham­pion’s League, it’s al­ways there,” he said at Ney­mar’s pre­sen­ta­tion. “We can’t say that this year we’re go­ing to win the Cham­pi­ons League. We’re go­ing to fight for it to be sure.” He has also in­sisted that the price for Ney­mar was not ex­ces­sive. But the rul­ing body UEFA is in­ves­ti­gat­ing PSG over pos­si­ble breaches of Fi­nan­cial Fair Play rules un­der which clubs can not spend a lot more than they earn, and UEFA boss Alek­sander Ce­ferin is mulling stricter mea­sures and pos­si­ble salary caps.

Span­ish league pres­i­dent Javier Te­bas has ac­cused PSG (and Abu-Dhabi owned Manch­ester City) of “fi­nan­cial dop­ing” as PSG ex­pen­di­tures have been met with eye­brows raised around the world.

But all this has not de­terred PSG from win­ning the first five Ligue 1 matches with a 19-3 goal dif­fer­ence, with Ca­vani scor­ing seven goals, Ney­mar four, and Mbappe get­ting his first in Fri­day’s de­but against Metz.

“It was a good de­but. I’m play­ing with great play­ers, it’s easy to play along­side them. It’s up to me to adapt and try to get my­self up to their level,” Mbappe said.

PSG can not af­ford to un­der­es­ti­mate Celtic in a group which also in­cludes An­der­lecht and their likely big­gest rivals, five-time winners Bayern Munich.

Bayern striker star Robert Le­wandowski on the week­end en­cour­aged his club to spend more money on new play­ers as well but in the same in­ter­view with Der Spiegel news magazine said that PSG still had to prove whether money could buy ti­tles.

“Paris have bought them­selves a world class squad. But it re­mains to be seen if they are also a world class team. Bayern is bet­ter at­tuned as a team, we have ex­pe­ri­enced many things to­gether,” Le­wandowski said. – dpa

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