Manchester City were catapulted into the attention of football fans all across Britain when they were purchased by Abu Dhabi United Group, a sovereign private equity firm that promised to spend millions to get City to the top. And although we had seen a similar model unveiled with Roman Abramovich and Chelsea, the money pumped into the Manchester club was unprecedented.
Now, it’s happening all over again.
Joining Manchester City, Paris St. Germain have been taken over by Arab investors and despite their takeover plans beginning in 2011, it is only this summer that the footballing world has really seen it hinting at is potential. Last season, despite acquisitions like Javier Pastore, Thiago Motta and Diego Lugano, the Paris club could only finish 2nd in Ligue 1. As such, nothing short of a championship crown was considered success, and thus this summer the Qatari investors have seen it fit to spend an estimated £143m on top players.
Already, PSG have signed Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva of AC Milan, Ezequiel Lavezzi from Napoli, Marco Verratti from Pescara and more recently, Lucas Moura from Sao Paulo, who won’t be arriving until the New Year. What is so striking about the club’s transfer strategies is the apparent knowledge and consideration behind the manoeuvres.
Paris St. Germain have been taken over by Arab investors and despite their takeover plans beginning in 2011, it is only this summer that the footballing world has really seen it hinting at is potential
When City were initially acquired by Thai billionaire Thaksin Sinawatra in 2007, and then Abu Dhabi United in 2008, their transfer policies didn’t exactly seem measured: any player having a half-decent season was immediately linked with the club and good proportion of them were promptly signed, regardless of value, wage demands, or most importantly, whether they were actually that good.
A roll call of names signed by Manchester City in their initial stages of development reads like a “who’s who” of overrated and ultimately discarded football talent. Gelson Fernandes, Valeri Bojinov, Rolando Bianchi, Javier Garrido, Felipe Caicedo, Benjani Mwaruwari, Tal Ben-Haim, Shaun Wright-Phillips (re-signed), Vedran Corluka, Jo, Wayne Bridge, Roque Santa Cruz and Stefan Savic represent a combined ‘value’ of £163m, and that isn’t even considering the likes of Robinho and Jerome Boateng, who although may be regarded as good footballers, were nothing more than average in the blue of City.
It effectively took Manchester City three seasons of signing anything with a pulse until they finally tempered their ‘child in a sweet shop’ mentality and, coupled with the appointment of Roberto Mancini, started to make headway in the major competitions and go some way towards justifying the ludicrous amount of money they spent on players. In light of this, it would seem PSG have learnt to adapt where it took so long for City to do so. Instead of throwing money at half-decent players in the midst of their one-and-only purple patch, Leonardo and Carlo Ancelotti have scouted and identified the areas they need to strengthen and approached players with quality and proven track records.
However, not only have they consolidated their squad with the recognised talents of Ibrahimovic, Silva and Lavezzi, they have taken the prudent decision to complement these players with the signings of Verratti and Moura: two largely unproven young talents who nonetheless boast enormous potential. But despite these ambitious additions, will they prove enough to clinch the Ligue 1 title for the first time since 1994, and only the third in their history?
A roll call of names signed by Manchester City in their initial stages of development reads like a “who’s who” of overrated and ultimately discarded football talent
In 2011/12 PSG were beaten to the title by Montpellier, who finished three points clear and could also boast the country’s leading goalscorer in Olivier Giroud. PSG’s Nene bagged the same number of goals as Giroud, while the now-Chelsea man Eden Hazard fired 20 for Lille.
However, with both Giroud and Hazard departing for the Premiership, and with no obvious replacements forthcoming, has the quality, specifically the attacking quality, in Ligue 1 taken a big hit? PSG have made a statement of intent with the purchases of Ibrahimovic and Lavezzi; they have the firepower in the final third that a lot of the other top Ligue 1 teams lack. After Hazard, only two players managed 15-plus goals in the league last season.
With Motta anchoring the midfield and chasing down any loose balls, the versatile Brazilian-cum-Italian becomes the platform upon which PSG’s resident playmaker, Javier Pastore can orchestrate. And with the likes of Nene, Lavezzi and Ibrahimovic providing a wealth of movement up front, the talented Argentinean will be spoilt for choice. Should things need tweaking, Ancelotti has both Moura, from January, and Verratti on the bench who can spray the ball around with ease, and could allow Pastore a more advanced role, one which he occupied last season and grabbed a respectable 13 goals.
But it isn’t just going forward where PSG will feel confident in their abilities; with the addition of Thiago Silva at the heart of the defence, Ancelotti will hope to improve on a back four that leaked 41 goals last season in the league alone. The much-touted Brazilian not only offers a composed head with an ability to read the play brilliantly, he has pace to his game too. Ancelotti will just now need to determine a defensive partner for Silva, with fellow Brazilian Alex, Urguayan Lugano and Frenchman Mamadou Sakho all occupying the centre-back berth last term, a call for consistency is required.
PSG have made a statement of intent with the purchases of Ibrahimovic and Lavezzi
However, much like with Serie A losing some its top players – although, admittedly ALL to PSG – Ligue 1 has seen a similar exodus of talent, and PSG hope to profit from that. It seems likely that they would certainly be in the top two come May, and when you consider the challengers around them, it wouldn’t be a surprise if they walked the league. But, how will they fare in Europe?
Manchester City eventually won the Premiership last season, but fared dismally in both the Champions League and The Europa League, hinting that European glory can’t quite be manufactured so quickly. Look at Chelsea, for all their spending since Abramovic took over in 2004, it took them until 2012, almost a full eight years later to finally taste European glory.
Despite PSG’s lucrative acquisitions, the road to the Champions League final is fraught with difficulty; consider the fact no one has yet to defend the crown in its current format. Whoever comes out on top generally has a team of great players, perhaps even a few world class players, but rarely – with the exception of say, FC Porto for example – does a team get through by relying on one or two players.
In recent years we’ve seen Barcelona dominate with their brand of tiki-taka football, boasting the likes of Lionel Messi, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique; Manchester United romped to victory in Moscow on the back of wondrous performances from Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Carlos Tevez and Nemanja Vidic; and Inter defeated much-fancied Barca en route with a squad bursting with talent in the likes of Diego Milito, Wesley Sneijder, Javier Zanetti and Maicon. And that’s only in the past five years, without considering the great Real Madrid teams of the late 90s, the treble-winning Manchester United of ’99 and the two famous Milan triumphs.
Manchester City eventually won the Premiership last season, but fared dismally in both the Champions League and The Europa League
PSG lack two genuinely quality full-backs and if Motta is injured – which is hardly unlikely – they do not possess enough bite in the centre of the park to really trouble the top European teams. In Europe, as undoubtedly brilliant as he is, Ibrahimovic has built somewhat of a reputation for ‘going missing’ while Lavezzi can quite equally have his ‘off-days’ as he has his ‘on-days’.
In essence, though PSG have the mettle to feasibly dictate proceedings in the domestic competitions, their chances in Europe are considerably less great. A good showing would be the quarter finals; knowing you’ve navigated the group stages and got a knockout win under your belt should be regarded as good form for a team that is taking huge, and arguably somewhat unsteady, strides forward.
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