What Nasser Al-Khelaifi's 4-Year Champions League Ultimatum Means for PSG

Jonathan Johnson@@Jon_LeGossipFeatured ColumnistJanuary 3, 2014

PARIS, FRANCE - JULY 18:  Nasser Al Khelaifi (L) and Leonardo Nascimento de Araujo ( (R) welcome Zlatan Ibrahimovic (C) during the press conference for Paris Saint Germain at Parc des Princes on July 18, 2012 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Marc Piasecki/Getty Images)
Marc Piasecki/Getty Images

Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi earlier this week said that the French champions “have to win” the Champions League within the next four years, according to L’Equipe (h/t Ian Holyman of ESPN FC).

The capital club face Bayer Leverkusen in the last 16 of the competition after coming through a favourable Group C that included Olympiakos, S.L. Benfica and RSC Anderlecht as winners. 

PSG’s reward for topping their group—like last year when they drew Valencia CF—is an opponent that represents an excellent chance for them to reach the quarterfinals.

Under Carlo Ancelotti last season, their first time dining at European football’s top table for eight years, the Parisians reached the last eight. There they were ousted by Spanish giants Barcelona, but only on away goals after a 3-3 aggregate result. 

Considering the progress made under the Italian, not to mention the strength the team have shown under new coach Laurent Blanc already in this season’s edition, Al-Khelaifi’s ambitions are not out of PSG’s reach.

PARIS, FRANCE - APRIL 02:  Zlatan Ibrahimovic of PSG celebrates scoring his teams first goal during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final match between Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona FCB at Parc des Princes on April 2, 2013 in Paris, France.  (Photo
Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

In fact, the Ligue 1 champions could win the first Champions League in their history as early as this season. If you look at the strength in depth Blanc possesses in comparison to the competition’s remaining coaches, PSG are better equipped than most to make a run through to this year’s Lisbon final.

So what will Al-Khelaifi and Qatar Sports Investments’ ultimatum mean for Blanc and his players? 

Essentially, it means nothing that they don’t already know.

PARIS, FRANCE - MAY 18: Thiago Silva lifts the Ligue 1 trophy after the Ligue 1 match between Paris Saint-Germain FC and Stade Brestois 29 at Parc des Princes on May 18, 2013 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Michael Regan/Getty Images

The current squad assembled are aware of their status as one of the continent’s strongest collectives and, as a consequence, are clear in that they are expected to win European club football’s biggest prize.

It is not the first time that PSG potentially winning the trophy has been mentioned either. 

Midfield lynchpin Thiago Motta has spoken of his belief that the current team can win the competition to RMC (h/t Holyman), while Zlatan Ibrahimovic also told the press, while in Doha, that he is confident in his teammates’ ability to triumph on the European stage (h/t Holyman). 

PARIS, FRANCE - JULY 16: Paris Saint-Germain's (PSG) chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi speaks during a press conference on July 16, 2013 in Paris, France. Cavani's transfer to Paris Saint-Germain football club is reported to have cost in the region of £55m.  (P
Antoine Antoniol/Getty Images

Al-Khelaifi’s words reinforce the message that the French champions are ambitious and will not simply settle for domestic dominance, but perhaps it also increases the pressure on Blanc and his players somewhat.

That should not bother either Le President or the squad; since 2011 they have been growing accustomed to the new level of attention they receive because of their heady aims and they have had to adapt to the level of pressure that goes with such ambition as well. 

PARIS, FRANCE - JULY 16:  Paris Saint-Germain's (PSG) new forward, Edinson Cavani (L), and Paris Saint-Germain's (PSG) chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi, pose with Cavani's jersey during a press conference on July 16, 2013 in Paris, France. Cavani's transfer to
Antoine Antoniol/Getty Images

What is perhaps most interesting, though, is that Al-Khelaifi has now put a timeframe on PSG’s potential victory.

Revealing that the team are expected to win the competition inside the next four years means that, should the side from the French capital fail to win it this season or next, the pressure will increase as the players approach this deadline.

Obviously that would not happen if Blanc’s side are successful in the current edition of the competition, though. 

PARIS, FRANCE - MAY 18:  Zlatan Ibrahimovic of PSG celebrates after scoring to make it 3-0 during the Ligue 1 match between Paris Saint-Germain FC and Stade Brestois 29 at Parc des Princes on May 18, 2013 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty I
Michael Regan/Getty Images

PSG will never have Ibrahimovic in better form than he is at present; the Swede is arguably primed for Champions League success right now. Other key players, such as Motta, are approaching the right moment to triumph as well.

The Italian international is enjoying a relatively injury-free campaign and provides not only a metronomic presence in the three-man midfield that is serving the team so well, but he also provides vital experience.

Brazilian captain Thiago Silva who, now fit again after some injury worries towards the end of 2013, is indispensable to the side and adds to Motta’s wisdom.

PARIS, FRANCE - JANUARY 31:  International soccer player David Beckham, Nasser Al-Khelaifi and Leonardo attend the press conference for his PSG signing at Parc des Princes on January 31, 2013 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Marc Piasecki/Getty Images)
Marc Piasecki/Getty Images

Al-Khelaifi’s demand of the players that they win the Champions League in the next four years also possibly hints at a potential cut-off point for funding of the club.

If PSG have not won the trophy by 2018, then what happens? Does the money from Qatar dry up, and will the club be forced to sell off their most prized assets at that point?

DOHA, QATAR - OCTOBER 24:  Arab men sit at a shoemaker's stall with a replica of the FIFA World Cup trophy in the Souq Waqif traditional market on October 24, 2011 in Doha, Qatar. Qatar will host the 2022 FIFA World Cup football competition and is slated
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Considering that the Qatar World Cup is thought to be one of the main reasons behind this promotion of affluence, power and success overseas, would PSG winning the competition be considered “job done” by QSI ahead of 2022?

It is unlikely, although all are possibilities, given that the original plan from Al-Khelaifi’s initial aims outlined in his introduction as PSG president has now been expedited, according to L'Equipe (h/t Ligue 1.com).  

At first, the plan was to qualify for the Champions League every season from 2012, to play a major role in Le Championnat after 2015 and to target European success after that.

Instead, it now sounds like QSI believe that European club football’s top prize is closer to them than they first thought.

PARIS, FRANCE - DECEMBER 18:  (L-R) Mayor of Paris Bertrand Delanoe, President of Paris Saint Germain FC Nasser Al-Khelaifi and French Minister of National Education Luc Chatel attend the Ligue1 match between Paris Saint-Germain FC and LOSC Lille Metropol
Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Al-Khelaifi’s four-year ultimatum for European success is not unrealistic; in fact, it seems quite reserved and grounded considering how the team are playing at the moment.

However, given the current trajectory of the PSG project, continuing along this path will arguably see the capital club achieve their goals far sooner than in a modest span of four years anyway.