Paris Saint-Germain and Montpellier: Different Paths to the Top of Ligue 1
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A funny thing happened on Sunday night. France’s Ligue 1 leaders Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) were held at home to a draw by second-place Montpellier.
People who don’t follow the French league that closely may not take much notice of this draw. Despite Montpellier being second in the league table, one point behind PSG, they have spent a fraction of the money that the Paris outfit have and have few, if any, star players—at least few that are known outside of France.
Just three short seasons ago, Montpellier was playing in the French second division. Since returning to the top flight in 2008, manager Rene Girard has put together a squad of talented youth and solid veterans.
PSG, on the other hand, has experienced an influx of cash and expectations over the past year. In 2011, Qatar Investment Authority became the main shareholder in Les Parisiens, holding a 70 percent stake in the club. Consequently, last year PSG spent more money than any other club in world football on the likes of Javier Pastore, Jeremy Menez, Mohamed Sissoko and Salvatore Sirigu. They also attempted to sign one David Beckham.
In all, Les Parisiens new owners shelled out over $143 million for the 2011-12 season. Their most expensive purchase was Javier Pastore at a price of $56.9 million. The playmaker has recorded seven goals and three assists since his move from Palermo—a return some might feel is inadequate in relation to the price tag.
Against Montpellier this past weekend, Pastore made his return from injury, coming on in the 77th minute for Mohamed Sissoko. The rust was apparent as Pastore’s opening touches were abysmal. However, once he got into the flow of the match he began to assert himself into the PSG attack. Unfortunately, PSG manager Carlo Ancelotti’s 4-3-2-1 formation doesn’t favor wide open attack-minded football. Something that limits Pastore’s ability to influence a match.
Montpellier was rather unfortunate to draw as they played the better football for most of the night. The draw keeps the southern club in second place, one point behind PSG. But why is this provincial club threatening the big boys of French football? They don’t have the money or the big names on or off the pitch.
Of course, the expectations are lower at a club like Montpellier, whose wage bill is lower than Pastore’s entire transfer fee. Girard’s decision to play young exciting players that are hungry to succeed has paid off for the club. Olivier Giroud is one such player that was plucked from Ligue 2 side Tours.
Giroud’s time with Montpellier will surely be up this summer as the big clubs will come calling. The striker has tallied 16 goals in 23 matches, while creating another seven. He collected more goals than any of the more expensive players on PSG’s roster. He is also a player deserving of a place in France’s Euro 2012 team.
While PSG has splashed out cash for unproven players, Montpellier has spent little on unproven names with little media hype.
Football needs clubs like Montpellier, not only to help produce quality players for the big clubs to snatch up, but also for their ability to throw a wrench in the gears. If Montpellier can overcome PSG this season it’ll be a true triumph for football, rather than money.
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