Record arrivals to help fulfil PSG’s Euro dream
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