2013 has arrived and for Ligue 1 giants Paris Saint-Germain and their star man Zlatan Ibrahimovic, it promises to be a massive year.
No sooner had the New Year champagne been consumed and Leonardo and the Qatar Sports Investment hierarchy were toasting the successful capture of Lucas Moura. The capital club had snatched the talented Brazilian from under the nose of Manchester United in August, but allowed the 20-year-old to finish the domestic season with Sao Paulo before joining.
Coupled with the arrival of Moura, PSG’s ominous form at the back end of last year suggests that the team are primed for a massive year. Whether success is forthcoming in this season or the next, the French juggernaut is now well and truly rolling and Carlo Ancelotti’s side boast an array of stars to match Europe’s best. Even Barcelona perhaps.
It may be fanciful to suggest that a team that have only been put together in the last 18 months could challenge the team responsible for setting the benchmark for how football should be played at the highest level in the modern era.
However, when you look at PSG’s recent Champions League progress and compare it with that of the similarly affluent Manchester City, it is impressive how far he club has come in such a short space of time.
PSG may not produce the same level of quality from their youth academy that Barcelona can boast, and they may not have a specific culture that defines them and their style of play so uniquely. But, what the capital club have right now is money. Lots of it. And right now, money is very important
You could argue that the days of developing into a club that produces its own top quality players like the Catalans are gone. When QSI arrived though they were not setting out to mirror Barca, they were setting out to usurp them. Bold claims of wanting to discover ‘the new Lionel Messi’ were scoffed at before many realised that Nasser Al-Khelaifi and co were serious. A season and a half later and they may well have found just that in Lucas Moura.
Whilst there is little doubt that Neymar is the most exciting Brazilian prospect currently on the market, PSG now genuinely have a talent in Moura that the rest of their rivals in world football coveted. Manchester United wanted him, but Leonardo blew Sir Alex Ferguson out of the water with the club’s ambition and financial muscle. Barcelona arguably would have made room in their line up to accommodate him and a host of other clubs were all keen. PSG though won out and that is a sign of their increasing importance in European football.
Moura joins Ancelotti’s side at a crucial time, they are top of Ligue 1 but only on goal difference, they have reached the last 16 of the Champions League and have finally started to show the form expected of a team with such value. With Ibrahimovic in imperious form, they look set to fulfil their considerable promise now that Moura has completed the jigsaw.
As for overtaking Barcelona this season, that will have to wait until it at least becomes more clear how quickly the team are developing their chemistry. The talent is there, it is now a question of giving them time to enhance their rapport and welcome Moura into the fold. Continental glory looks unlikely this season although a deep run in the competition is not out of the question, but by this time next year we could be looking at serious contenders for a European crown despite the initial five-year projection by QSI
One thing that that could speed that up would be a prestigious clash with the Catalans in the Champions League. That would give Ancelotti’s side the test that they are in need of to know exactly how far away they are from being a genuine threat in Europe. Another is Ibrahimovic’s burning desire to fulfil his ambition of European glory that currently evades him.
In stellar form this season, the only thing that has looked absent from his impressive repertoire has been a sidekick. That sidekick may well have now arrived and Moura can play Robin to Zlatan’s Zlat-man. The pairing of the duo has frightening potential and the fact that the Brazilian will be eligible for European matches immediately makes for an enthralling second half of the season in the capital.
The most pressing question now is how long it takes Moura to settle. If it is a question of months, then do not expect to see fireworks until next season. But if it is a question of weeks, then PSG could already be major players. With Ibra in Ballon d’Or form, the Lucas who made waves in Brazil so spectacularly could explode onto the scene putting even Messi in the shade. But until the sides meet, there will be no clear indication as to where PSG’s limitations for 2013 lie.