Money Is No Object for Paris Saint-Germain

LONDON — Can Paris Saint-Germain win the Champions League, and if so would it be allowed to stay in the competition in forthcoming years?

On Wednesday, the Parisians, backed by the ruling family of Qatar, fielded seven reserve players and came from a goal down to finish off Bayer Leverkusen. “We are in the quarterfinals, like last season,” the P.S.G. chairman, Nasser Al Khelafi, said on the club’s website. “And that was the minimum objective.

“For the second year in a row, we are in Europe’s last eight clubs, and there are only big opponents left. We will try to go as far as possible.”

The second leg was almost a formality. Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the other senior players hired over the past three years by the Paris club had crushed Leverkusen in Germany, 4-0, in the first leg, and, playing at a training ground tempo that sometimes had all the cut and thrust of a Trappist retreat, it won the second leg, 2-1, at Parc des Princes on Wednesday.

Leverkusen is, in a sense, the old German model. Its backing by the pharmaceutical company whose name is in the club’s title has sustained a relatively small town team that has competed with the giants for decades. But P.S.G. is something else.

It has been fueled since May 2011 by another set of initials, Q.I.A. — the Qatar Investment Authority — whose money has persuaded players of the caliber of Ibrahimovic and the Brazil captain Thiago Silva, the Uruguyan striker Edinson Cavani, the young Italian Marco Verratti and a whole lot more to play in the French league.

They don’t just play in it, they dominate it. The two goals on Wednesday, from the head of Brazilian defender Marquinhos and the foot of the Argentine winger Ezequiel Lavezzi, took the Paris club’s tally to 104 goals in 42 games thus far this season.

Marquinhos looks a brilliant prospect. He rose head and shoulders above anyone else to head what is already his third Champions League goal. He is 19, and having moved in his short career from Corinthians São Paulo to Roma in Italy, he now stands tall at the side of his national team captain in the French capital.

“Tonight,” said Marquinhos, “I had a really great night. It feels fantastic to be in the Champions League.”

Fantastic, and, as gifted players often appear to do, this is a young man who simply seems to be growing into his potential.

His header equalized an earlier one by Leverkusen’s splendidly named Sidney Sam. The son of a Nigerian father and German mother, and very much an upcoming German player, Sam stands barely 5-foot-8½ inches tall, or 1.76 meters. But, like Marquinhos, he timed his leap to perfection when he headed in a sweeping first-time cross from the adventurous right back Giulio Donati.

There’s the rub for Leverkusen. It already knows that Sam will not be a part of its future because Bayer sold the winger to Schalke during the January trading window, and he will make the switch at the end of the season.

That is the normal economics of soccer. You nurture a player, and when the money is right and he wants to go, you sell him.

P.S.G. doesn’t operate by the norms of soccer finance. Like Chelsea, like Manchester City, it is the investment project of foreigners who have billions to lavish. Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, the chairman of European champion Bayern Munich and also the leader of the European Clubs Association, is worried about the purchasing power of such clubs.

“A club like Paris Saint-Germain has a 300-million-euro payroll including taxes,” Rummenigge told Kicker magazine in January, referring to the $418 million payroll. “It’s impossible to finance that. The Bundesliga financial model works very well, we do not spend more than we receive.”

Rummenigge’s club recorded a turn-over of €432.8 million in 2013. It is Germany’s giant, able to cherry pick its commercial partners from companies in the most successful economy in Europe.

But his complaint, and the implication in his remarks concerning P.S.G., is that the Qatar-French alliance pushes beyond the boundaries of self-sufficiency intended by the new Financial Fair Play rules coming into play. Those rules, set by UEFA, in essence stipulate that clubs must earn their way through soccer-related income.

We will see how this pans out. P.S.G. and Manchester City are flooded with petro dollars from Gulf powers. They might contend that they are spending like there is no tomorrow because they are playing catch-up — their spending to recruit top players is being done over a relatively short time span compared to the Real Madrids, the Bayern Munichs, the Manchester Uniteds that have been established financial kings of the Continent for decades.

P.S.G.’s wage structure, as mentioned by Rummenigge, is not the half of it. The club has spent more than half a billion dollars in its three-year Arabian adventure on transfer fees to buy a place in the Champions League.

The French league now seems almost a foregone conclusion. Paris is eight points clear at the top (though Bayern Munich is 20 points clear in the Bundesliga).

Both can play within themselves in their domestic games.

That is one reason why English clubs are finding the pace in the Champions League too demanding at the moment. Another is that as new forces rise, it becomes harder and more expensive for the established European elite to recruit as they would like.

Marquinhos, for example, would make a fine pillar in any defense for years to come. He chose Paris — and from Bayern to Barcelona there is a shortage of genuine central defensive talent.

P.S.G. may not win the Champions League this season. But if it keeps recruiting, it will be there in the future.

Powered by Blogger.
My Blogger TricksAll Blogger TricksTechtunes