First there was Chelsea. Roman Abramovich rode into West London on the wave of his oil-rich wealth, and the club have never looked back, with a total of 10 trophies in just under a decade, resulting in the biggest prize in club football, and the one the Russian so badly desired, the Champions League being secured on penalties in May.
Then came the Abu Dhabi ownership of Manchester City, which saw the perennial underdogs finally depose arch-rivals United as league champions on goal difference, and quite rightly so, given the hundreds of millions of pounds it had taken them to reach their goal. This season, they’ll look to make their mark on the Champions League, and with talents like David Silva, Sergio Aguero and the one-man entertainment that is Mario Balotelli, could be England’s best hope. Similar money-projects are currently unfolding in the unpronounceable Anzhi Makhachkala, in Abramovich’s very own Russia, with Cameroonian star Samuel Eto’o the biggest name over there, whilst Spanish minnows Malaga enter this year’s Champions League, thanks mostly to a nice big Qatari injection of cash.
Qatar are also the reason for the prominence of French capital club, Paris Saint-Germain. They were a massive club, the second-most supported club in France, a host of league titles, cup wins, but for a few years had been floundering, at times flirting with relegation. Then came the money. The Qatar Investment Group took control of the club fully this year, but weighed in to support them last summer, purchasing Argentine Javier Pastore from Palermo for a cool €40million, shattering the club and Ligue Un transfer record, and signalling intent. Intent from the club that they were to become France’s no.1 club, and win the prize every club in Europe has their eyes on, the Champions League.
More players who had lots of European experience were acquired, Italian Thiago Motta, ex-Barca and Inter, and Momo Sissoko, formerly of Liverpool and Juve, beefed up centre midfield. Jeremy Ménez of Roma, returned to his homeland and promptly made the France XI in the Euro’s, Barca backup man Maxwell joined in January, along with fellow Brazilian Alex from Chelsea. Some may be the utility men, the ones not quite good enough to make some of Europe’s top teams, first XI’s, but they carry with them quality and experience of what it takes to win trophies, simply by being amongst the top squadsof their former employers. Plus, this summer PSG aren’t aiming for the best substitutes in the world, they’re aiming to sign some of the world’s best players.
This summer has seen the club aim big. As a part of Napoli’s famed trident of attacking talent, Ezequiel Lavezzi, was linked with huge moves to Chelsea, maybe even AC Milan. PSG snapped him up for a casual €24million, the first major deal of the summer transfer window, and a signal they mean business. Then came the first Thiago Silva strand. One day a record breaking deal for a defender would be on, the next it was off. Speculation was finally put to bed when he signed a lucrative, new 5-year deal to stay at Milan till 2017. Even as recent as two days ago, the humongous Brazilian centre-back had stated his desire to stay at Milan for a ‘very long time’. How things change.
AC owner Silvio Berlusconi, a controversial man for a number of reasons at the best of times, confirmed that a bid of around €65million had been accepted for Silva and teammate, the cult hero Zlatan Ibrahimovic. He reckoned the club would save €150m with their departure (wages mostly), money that could be ploughed back into the club’s next wave of youth. Still, for a club to sell their two most prized assets in one swoop, is unprecedented. A sign of PSG’s true wealth and growing power, or a Milan in transition?
Without a doubt, the capital club are favourites for the domestic Ligue Un title, having only narrowly missed out by three points to first time title winners Montpellier, the fairytale of the year. They’ve lost top scorer Olivier Giroud to Arsenal, and have the burden of a Champions League campaign to deal with, so it’ll be difficult for them to repeat such an amazing feat again. 3rd placed Lille have finally lost star man Eden Hazard, the Belgian also moving to England with Chelsea, although they often find rough gems to replace the departing stars. Former dominant sides Lyon and Marseille have fallen from grace, dropping into the Europa League for the first time in years, so on paper it looks like it’s PSG’s to lose! But then France has had such an open top league for a few years now, you never really know.
A PSG title, would close the league up for years of domination, as there is noone that’ll be able to compete in terms of wealth. A positive for France, is that they may gain a Champions League winner for the first time in 20 years, and the capital could finally have a club with something to match the attractions of the city, a team amongst the best in the world, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic as its leader. What a sight that would be.