Paris St. Germain, The Yankees of France

By Chris Walker • September 24, 2012 at 10:00 am


The New York Yankees are the benchmark for athlete spending, with almost $198 million in salary this season according to USA Today. This salary allowance necessitates fielding top players like Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, and C.C. Sabathia. The strategy has brought championships and a multitude of marketing opportunities, so it’s unsurprising that such a strategy has been copied in other sports as well. One such imitator is an ocean away and is still tinkering with the plan. This team is French football club Paris St. Germain.

The 32-year-old club began competing in the French premier division (Ligue Un) in 1974. They would win the league twice, coming close seven times, including last season. The team had won eight French Cups, so they weren’t a terrible club before now. They were just a club that kept finishing in the middle of the table for a number of years, lacking true ambition.

However, the team would change dramatically in 2011, when the Qatari Investment Authority purchased 70% (later in 2012, the last 30%) of the club. The group recognized the potential investment of a club in one of the world’s biggest cities. It was already one of the biggest teams in France, and only second to its rival, Olympique Marseille, in game-day attendance.

What was their first order of business? Splashing the cash.

The first summer of the QIA’s investment, they spent 86 million euros on players like midfielder Javier Pastore, who cost a reported 43 million euros. In comparison, most French clubs spent nine times less on average. What were the results? The team finished the season in second place to Montpellier. In the face of defeat, what did they do? Spent even more cash.

This past summer, PSG spent a reported 146 millions euros. In perspective, this has been reported to be close to half of the spending in Ligue Un all summer. They signed players like Swedish forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Brazillian defender Thiago Silva, both formally of AC Milan, for a combined 63 million euros.

PSG uniforms. | Photo courtesy of Mickael Denet via Wikimedia Commons

How has this worked out for PSG so far? They sit in third place after six rounds. Ibrahimovic is leading the team, and the league, in scoring with seven goals. Off the field, they are generating a different kind of press. In France, there is currently a proposed law which if passed would tax anyone making over one million euros at a rate close to 75%. In perspective, Ibrahimovic earns a million euros a month. The team owners are said to be willing to soften the blow for all their players, but that sort of investment could cause a struggle to attract players after a while.

As well, UEFA has instituted financial fair play rules, akin to a salary cap, mainly to review and track teams’ transfer spending. In other words, give the “Yankees” a fineable limit of how high they can spend on players. So far there are no complaints, but this, along with the possible tax, could curtail PSG’s plans to secure European dominance by signing top players whenever needed or wanted.

Altogether PSG, like the Yankees, have a great chance to make some noise in their league for the next couple of years. Thanks to the introduction of mad cash flow, the squad has a chance to become one of the biggest teams in Europe. They could also serve as a warning to other teams that want to splash the cash, if they’re unsuccessful. Cautionary tale or pacesetter? We’ll soon find out.




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