Kylian Mbappé, the highest paid footballer in the world, leader of the PSG squad by origin, seniority and talent, left the Allianz Arena wearing a gray cap. As he kindly greeted his fans, he responded to a journalist’s question: “Will this affect your future at PSG?” His response was as open and liquid as the reality of an institution that after being eliminated from the Champions League this Wednesday by Bayern (3-0), in the round of 16, has settled in uncertainty: “No, I’m very calm. Now the only thing that matters to me is winning Ligue 1, and then we’ll see”.
“We’ll see”, as a strategic message, is the only thing that seems safe from a company that has invested 1,600 million euros in transfers since it was acquired by the Qatari sovereign wealth fund in 2011, in the wake of the agreement that the president supposedly sealed. of the Republic, Nicolas Sarkozy, and Sheikh Tamim al-Thani, current Emir of Qatar. This is how Michel Platini referred it to the French finance prosecutor’s office when he investigated him for fraud, in 2017. According to the world, At the end of 2010, just before FIFA chose the host of the 2022 World Cup, Sarkozy promised to promote Qatar’s bid to change the Arab country to invest its money in France. In the months following the Qatari election, Qatari sovereign wealth funds bought 50 Airbus A350s, a batch of Rafale fighter jets, a squadron of Tiger helicopters and a missile defense system, in addition to the PSG and broadcasting rights. from Ligue 1.
“We built a team to win the Champions League,” proclaimed Nasser al-Khelaifi, the new president of PSG. Climbing to the top of the biggest mountain in club competitions became the existential motto of the project. Since then, 12 seasons have passed and the club has won nine French leagues. But the closest he came to lifting the European Cup was when the final was achieved in the dystopian context of the pandemic, without an audience, during a ten-day mini-tournament in Portugal. Bayern stayed with that Champions League.
There were more fans cheering the losers than the winners at the gates of the Allianz Arena, when Ramos, Messi, Verratti and Mbappé were leaving the locker room this Wednesday. For the planetary fans they are more popular than Mané, Kimmich, Mussiala and De Ligt, Bayern heroes. The most expensive transfers in history to date – Neymar for 222 million and Mbappé for 180 million – ensured PSG the kind of prestige that relates to power more than football. The hiring of Messi, who arrived free in 2021, culminated the escalation. This time, at least, with more returns. The sources consulted at the Paris club warn that Messi is by far the star that attracts the most sponsors. They estimate that thanks to the image rights associated with Messi, PSG billed 135 million euros more per season. This is the main reason that has pushed the sheikhs to offer a renewal to the Argentine, who just hired next June and has yet to publicly announce whether he will accept the extension or pack his bags. If so, the defeat in Munich could have been his last appearance in the Champions League.
Messi, like Mbappé and Neymar, seem lethargic in Paris. Unai Emery said it and Mauricio Pochettino recognized it, coaches for five years in the Parque de los Príncipes: Ligue 1 did not excite the great figures. Since they are not motivated, they are not disciplined to train at the highest level continuously. Playing eight Champions League games per season is not enough to acquire a competitive rhythm. “In Munich the players made an effort that few have seen in this squad,” they point out from the club. So much so that when they entered the locker room at halftime they experienced the first soreness and already in the second half they cannot sustain the frequency of efforts imposed on them by their rivals, better physical and mental conditions in a regimen of discipline and performance that is well above from that of Paris.
They say in the PSG environment that the emir of Qatar did not sleep on Wednesday night. The global result of the tie against Bayern (3-0) projects a bleeding reality for the club’s administrators with the most deficient balance of income and expenses in transfers in the last decade, after Manchester United, billing machine par excellence of the soccer industry. According to the Transfermarkt website, since the Qataris took over the property, the difference between sales and purchases of PSG players offers a negative balance of 1,100 million euros; more than double that of Bayern, which enjoys the support of the most solid business community in Germany, exhibits and a negative balance of 450 million.
turn to the Premier
“Fire me!” was the response that Neymar gave to one of his coaches at PSG, when they ruled out that he had to correct his overweight. Honest and hardworking like few others when he steps on the grass, the Brazilian made nightlife in France a corrosive routine for his body. When Mbappé renewed his contract in 2022, he conditioned his consent on Al-Khelaifi taking steps that promote “professionalism” and “organization,” according to euphemisms used in his public statements. PSG probed the market in search of destinations for the Brazilian, but only Newcastle offered to pay him the 40 million net that they assure him in Qatar until 2025 for all items. The hiring of Luis Campos as sports director —Mbappé’s express request— was the great consequence of the rigorist attempt. Campos ended up facing Neymar in heated arguments. The feeling of misrule gravitates over an institution whose employees now fear the worst. The first Mbappé, who is 24 years old and has signed a contract until 2025 with a release clause in 2024. Just in case.
Mbappé is, today, the club’s most visible authority. The Qataris want to oust Christope Galtier without delay. But the coach will remain in office unless Mbappé and Campos —his supporter of him— stop supporting him. As for the emir of Qatar, he is too proud to give up. From PSG they assure that the commitments that Al-Thani and Sarkozy supposedly reached are still valid. But these same sources, close to the owners, indicate that the sheikhs are studying reducing the volume of expenses if they set foot in the Premier.
On February 17, Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund announced that it will bid to buy Manchester United, owned by the Glazer family. The lawyers for the two parties agree on the fundamentals, waiting for UEFA to authorize an operation riddled with conflicts of interest. Qatar is offering 4.5 billion euros and the Glazers are hoping to get 1,500 more, almost double what they estimate United is really worth.
The elimination of the Champions, the most resounding that the PSG of the new era has suffered, can accelerate the move. His French adventure amortized, Tamim al-Thani dreams of buying the biggest pearl in the Premier’s necklace.
You can follow EL PAÍS Sports on Facebook and Twitteror sign up here to receive our weekly newsletter.
Subscribe to continue reading
read without limits