The desire to become a world sporting power, with plans to dominate French and European football, made the Paris Saint-Germain, since becoming a billionaire after being acquired by Qatar Sports Investments, has invested a pharaonic amount in big stars. Lionel Messi, elected six times the best in the world, arrived this season to be the “icing on the cake”, change the level of the team and lead it in the pursuit of the long-awaited unprecedented achievement of the Champions League.
Qatar Sports Investments has financial control of the club and is a subsidiary of the Qatar Investment Authority, a Qatari sovereign fund valued at US$355 billion (R$1.9 trillion). The conglomerate also has the beIN, which is one of the broadcasters with the rights to broadcast the French Championship.
Under the control of the tycoon Nasser Al-Khelaifi, the club in the French capital went from a supporting role to a protagonist on the field, at least in France, where it became hegemonic, and in the transfer windows, accumulating signings that changed the market logic in Europe. Messi, Sergio Ramos, the italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, the Moroccan right-back Achraf Hakimi and the dutch midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum they came in this last transfer window and made PSG the club with the second most valuable squad in the world, only behind also billionaire Manchester City.
Considered one of the richest men in the world, 47-year-old Nasser Al-Khelaifi is the man responsible for bringing Messi and so many other aces with the thought of turning PSG into a sovereign club. A former professional tennis player and member of Qatar’s royal family, the owner of Qatar Sports Investments has been at the helm of the team for a decade and doesn’t mind spending skyrocketing amounts to make the club dominate world football. He entrusts the mission of panning the market to the Brazilian Leonardo, football director. Since 2011, more than 50 athletes from different nationalities have been hired, including eight Brazilians.
No one in the football world has spent more than PSG in the last ten years. During this period, the club disbursed nearly R$9 billion to assemble a star-studded cast capable of winning the Champions League. He hasn’t managed it yet, but he hopes that with Messi it will be possible. Remember that the Paris club did not have to pay any amount to Barcelona to have Messi. However, according to the French press, the Argentine star will earn 122 million euros (R$ 767 million) during the two years of his contract. This is because he will receive an annual salary of around 35 million euros (R$ 220 million) per season, in addition to gloves and other bonuses.
Although he has been accused on several occasions of having violated the rules of financial fair-play, without ever having been convicted, Al-Khelaifi assured at Messi’s introductory press conference that the club complies with UEFA rules. “Regarding the financial aspect, I’ll make it clear: we know the rules of financial fair play and we will always follow the regulations. Before doing anything, we meet with our commercial, legal and financial departments. If we hire Messi, it’s because we have the capacity for that. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have done it,” he said.
Top signings of PSG’s billionaire era
Messi is the big name of this nababesco and ambitious PSG. But before him, several other internationally renowned players came to change the landscape of the French team.
In 2011, Javier Pastore was PSG’s first big signing of this rich era for €42 million from Parma. At that time, the transfer of the Argentine was the biggest in the history of the French Championship.
The following year, Ibrahimovic left Milan for PSG for 21 million euros and delivered what was expected of him: goals in abundance, titles, awards and controversial declarations. In the same year, and also bought from Milan, Thiago Silva was one of the pillars for the consolidation of the Parisian team as a sporting power. He stayed until 2020 and got tired of raising glasses. The Champions League, curiously, the defender only raised when he transferred to Chelsea.
In the 2012/2013 season, David Beckham arrived free of charge to attract more spotlights. The English star stayed only a year, but, known worldwide, he helped to leverage the PSG brand and give more visibility to the team.
A year later, it was Cavani’s turn to arrive in Paris from Napoli for €64.5 million. It was a new record for the French league. The Uruguayan lived up to expectations and became the top scorer in the history of the French club, with 200 goals. In the same year, 49.5 million euros was the amount paid to Chelsea by Brazilian David Luiz, who did not have such a prominent visit there.
Also in 2013, Marquinhos, now an idol, was announced with promise status. For the former Corinthians player, PSG paid Roma around R$ 100 million at the time. It was worth the money, as the current titleholder of the Brazilian team has become one of the most complete defenders in world football, capable of playing in the center of defense and even as a defensive midfielder. It can even surpass Thiago Silva in his trajectory at the club.
The following season, the Qatari tycoon’s seemingly infinite money paid for the arrival of Ángel Di Maria, who joined the attacking trio already formed by Ibrahimovic and Cavani, bought from Manchester United for 63 million euros.
PSG returned to being a protagonist in the transfer market in 2017, with the hiring of Kylian Mbappé, loaned by Monaco, but with the transfer in the following season for 180 million euros. It was worth the investment, as the young Frenchman became the team’s idol and reference, having to assume, at times, the role that was expected of Neymar. But now, Mbappé could leave for Real Madrid.
But none of those reinforcements came close to the size of Neymar, the most expensive signing in world football history to date. In 2017, the Brazilian ace cost PSG 222 million euros (R$ 1.4 billion, at current prices).
In 2018, veteran Gianluigi Buffon wanted to venture into Paris after 17 years of service to Juventus. The experienced goalkeeper came for free, but received a salary of 5 million euros a year. It only stayed for one season.
And in this transfer window, Achraf Hakimi left Inter Milan and was bought for €70m, being the most expensive supporter of Al-Khelaifi’s management. He was the only one of the five heavyweight reinforcements PSG paid for. The others – Messi, Sergio Ramos, Donnarumma and Wijnaldum – came for free. It is estimated that the payroll of the current squad will reach 300 million euros (R$ 1.8 billion)
In the last ten years, under the presidency of Al-Khelaifi, PSG has already won the French Championship seven times, six French Cups, six French League Cups and eight French Super Cups.