Qatari takeover heralds new dawn for Paris Saint-Germain

By John SinnottBBC Sport
Leonardo, Blaise Matuidi, Jeremy Menez and Nasser Al-Khelaifi, who is the president of majority shareholders Qatar Sports Investment
Blaise Matuidi and Jeremy Menez are two of PSG's new signings

Historically Paris has experienced its fair share of revolutions and this summer it witnessed another - the takeover of perennial underachievers Paris Saint-Germain by Qatari investors.

Qatar Sports Investments - established in 2005 by son of the Emir and heir to the Qatari throne, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani - bought a 70% stake in PSG on 30 June and quickly installed former Inter Milan coach Leonardo as general manager.

Now PSG are threatening to do in France what Manchester City have been doing over the last couple of seasons in England - blow all and sundry out of the water when it comes to the transfer market.

This week, in the run-up to the Ligue 1 kick-off at the weekend, PSG were close to smashing the French transfer record by signing Palermo's Javier Pastore for 43m euros (£37.4m).

Even leaving the 22-year-old Argentine playmaker aside, though, the Parisian club have invested more than £37m on new players this summer - three times as much as champions Lille.

"PSG could be in a league of their own for the next five to 10 years," Liverpool's French director of football Damien Comolli told BBC Sport, while Arsenal scout Gilles Grimandi simply said: "They are now on another planet."

The mystery is why it has taken so long for PSG, who last won the title in 1994, to attract serious money.

Key to PSG's appeal is the fact that Paris is unique for a city of its size in having only one professional football club.

"If you look at popular collective sports around the world there is not one club... that fits into the middle of an area with roughly 10-12 million inhabitants and has absolute exclusivity on [its] market," Comolli told BBC Sport.

The attractiveness of Paris as a capital city will also help to lure new stars, with Comolli arguing Pastore's signing is a taster of PSG's future player recruitment strategy.

"Pastore is a marquee signing for PSG and French football," said the former Tottenham and St Etienne director of football.

"He is a very, very talented boy. He could have a massive impact at PSG and in French football. PSG looked at Ganso and Adel Taarabt, but they decided to go for Pastore.

"The strategy to go and buy younger players, who could become world stars like Pastore, is the right one.

"The Premier League or the Spanish will be a lot more attractive for [established] players. I think a top player will always want to play for Liverpool before PSG because of its history and the Premier League's competitiveness."

The other mystery surrounding PSG is why the club has historically failed to exploit the riches of young talent on its doorstep.

"It's one of the most important catchment areas for player recruitment, not only in France or Europe, but in the world," added Comolli. "Just look at the French national team - 80% of the players come from the Paris area.

"It's funny - the very talented players from Paris don't play for PSG. They play for Rennes, St Etienne or Lyon, like ex-Lyonnais winger Hatem Ben Arfa, who was born in Paris.

"PSG had a reputation for not producing players. And players from their academy would never have a chance to play in the first team.

"But PSG's under-17s have won the league as have their under-19s [last] season. They now look much stronger in youth development.

"At those ages the key thing is not to win titles, but to bring players through. However, they are on the right track."

But Grimandi warns that PSG's new-found riches will require a delicate balancing act from Leonardo and the club's coach Antoine Kombouare.

"PSG now face a difficult task - finding the right balance between developing young players and signing top, top players," said the Arsenal scout.

Former Lyon boss Alain Perrin, who now coaches Qatari club Al Khor, also warns it is imperative Kombouare makes a good start given that PSG are still busy recruiting.

"The team is late coming together and the coach needs time and it can be difficult to come back if you start slowly."

But Comolli predicted that PSG's near 20-year title drought is unlikely to go on for much longer - though whether they can challenge for the Champions League is debatable.

"They will need a bit of time, but they will challenge for the title this season and I think they will easily qualify for the Champions League.

Javier Pastore
PSG's transfer strategy is to target younger stars like Javier Pastore

"But it takes time to win a winning mentality to win the Champions League. You only have to look at Chelsea.

"You have to ask is the French league competitive enough to give PSG a sufficient challenge for them to be ready to compete in the Champions League."

And what about other top European teams - need they fear a newly-rich PSG?

"I think it will change French football, but I don't think it will have an impact on European football," said Comolli. "Liverpool will always be Liverpool, Real Madrid will always be Real Madrid and Inter Milan will always be Inter Milan."