For the past week or so, there have been two of this summer’s biggest transfer sagas gripping France’s Ligue 1 and both concern star performers from the recent FIFA World Cup in Brazil. One is James Rodriguez’s proposed move from AS Monaco to Real Madrid and the other is Los Blancos’ Angel Di Maria to French champions Paris Saint-Germain.
According to AS’s latest reports (h/t ESPNFC), the Spanish giants have agreed a deal in the region of €80 million with Les Monegasques for the Colombian sensation. The deal should be finalised later this week according to that same article.
However, PSG are also believed to have offered Argentine international Di Maria a contract. A €60 million fee is reported to have already been agreed between the two clubs last week per AS (h/t ESPNFC), with Real needing the money from that deal to be able to complete the signing of James.
Di Maria’s potential move to PSG has raised questions regarding the French champions’ ability to make such a move though, because of the UEFA Financial Fair Play (FFP) sanctions imposed upon them earlier this year, as reported by RMC Sport (h/t ESPNFC).
Le Parisien: PSG unable to sign Real Madrid's Angel di Maria currently. FFP has almost certainly ended PSG's hopes of signing the player.— FFW (@FrenchFtWeekly) July 20, 2014
Le Parisien’s latest reports on Sunday (h/t French Football Weekly’s tweet) claimed that Les Parisiens will struggle to complete a deal for the South American.
So, for now, it is unclear what the capital club’s transfer market situation actually is.
Considering the scale of the potential deal that would bring Di Maria to Paris, PSG’s priorities have to be questioned.
While it is clear that the club intend to go at least one step further than the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals this time around—and so are looking for players who have experience in winning the competition—Laurent Blanc’s pressing concern has to be his lack of options at right-back.
After Lyon's 4-1 friendly win vs. Shakhtar Donetsk, OL president Jean-Michel Aulas set PSG's Christophe Jallet a July 25 transfer deadline.— FFW (@FrenchFtWeekly) July 20, 2014
Former captain Christophe Jallet is set to quit Parc des Princes for Olympique Lyonnais’ Stade Gerland according to OL President Jean-Michel Aulas’ comments made on Saturday (h/t French Football Weekly). Questions marks also remain over the true extent of the knee injury that Dutch international Gregory van der Wiel has been suffering from for some time, per PSG.fr.
Because of this, PSG are believed to be stepping up their effort to sign Ivorian World Cup star Serge Aurier from Ligue 1 rivals Toulouse per Le Parisien (h/t French Football Weekly). But aside from a new right-back to replace Van der Wiel while he continues to recover, eventually vying with him for a starting role, do PSG actually need anybody else?
Right now, as has been the case at times over the past few years, it appears to be more a question of PSG wanting players as opposed to actually needing them.
Admittedly Di Maria would benefit the team and not only add Champions league experience, but he would also offer greater consistency and creative input. However, his arrival would render fellow Argentines Ezequiel Lavezzi and Javier Pastore surplus to demands.
Both players will be difficult for PSG to sell for a good price this summer because they have failed to live up to expectations since arriving in the French capital. If Les Parisiens do upgrade in this area, the departures of both Lavezzi and Pastore will likely produce enough money to cover the arrivals of both Di Maria and Aurier.
While PSG’s current stars have not always shown their best for the Ligue 1 side—certainly not domestically—there is reason to expect that both will improve over the coming season. Certainly in Pastore’s case, it is difficult to perform any worse.
With FFP sanctions now looming large over Parc des Princes, both know that they must show their true value if they are to remain a part of the French giants’ future plans. They also know that a good run of form could lead to a lucrative move elsewhere that would benefit both them and the club.
They will also be aware that them stepping up to play key roles on a consistent basis could be the key difference in PSG’s assault for further domestic and European success this season.
With or without Di Maria, the current PSG squad—with the exception of the right-back position—is still extremely strong and remains one of the best in Europe.
Blanc’s men are certainly capable of making a deeper run in the Champions League again, while continuing to dominate Ligue 1 thanks to Monaco’s declining power. Further domestic cup success is already anticipated—and certainly expected—after last season’s Coupe de la Ligue triumph.
Domestic success arguably means little compared to the bigger goal of continental success though and, considering last season's failings, Di Maria's arrival would not solve all of those problems. PSG's main weakness was strength in depth, not necessarily a lack of overall quality in the starting XI.
The signing of one or two big money players does not automatically solve that. The higher the fee paid, the greater number of changes are needed in order to accommodate the new arrivals. Quality players will be coming in, but quality players will also be leaving.
Instead, PSG should be trying to add to their current quality, while cutting costs where possible. UEFA limiting their Champions League squad to 21 players—considering that this was how many players the French champions used last season—is actually a benefit in many ways as it requires the club to field less homegrown talents.
Therefore, this summer’s biggest question for PSG is not actually how to reinforce the side further—although whether or not David Luiz can be considered a step up on the now-departed Alex is actually now a topic for debate—but instead of how to get the most out of the current squad and how to add quality without losing any unnecessarily.
Before PSG strengthen further is the transfer market, Blanc and his players need to develop a greater sense of tactical flexibility.
Last season, Le President rarely asked his side to stray from a 4-3-3 formation that bases its strength on a brilliant three-man midfield unit. By the end of the term, although the players were obviously tired from their long campaign, opposing teams—domestic and European—had figured out how to combat this.
Add to that the ongoing Edinson Cavani transfer saga regarding his unhappiness at not being played alongside Zlatan Ibrahimovic as a central striker, as was most recently reported by the Mirror’s Liam Prenderville, as well as the re-emergence of Lucas Moura as a genuine key player towards the end of last season.
Combined with marauding left-back Lucas Digne’s coming of age and now seemingly being ready to usurp first-choice Brazilian Maxwell, all signs appear to point towards a change of system for PSG.
Tactical innovation could be PSG’s best way around FFP, not desperate chopping and changing of squad members in order to accommodate yet another big name signing. Di Maria would benefit last season’s 4-3-3 system, but would also not encourage Blanc and his players to explore different styles of play.
Until that happens and PSG become more flexible and adept at changing their approach mid-match, the French champions will not enjoy total domestic and European supremacy, which remains their ultimate aim.