French Revolution: Qatari Billionaires to Resurrect Paris Saint-Germain?

Chris PotterCorrespondent IJuly 27, 2011

PARIS - MAY 01:  Striker Mevlut Erding of Paris Saint Germain football club (L) and midfielder Christophe Jallet (R) hold the trophy after winning the French Cup Football Final at Stade de France on May 1, 2010 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)
Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

London has five, Lisbon and Madrid have three, Milan has two. Paris only has one.

The French city is one of only a handful of European capital cities to be represented in its country's top flight football league by only one team.

In this case, that team is Paris Saint-Germain (PSG).

Despite ruling the roost in a big and wealthy city, PSG fans have watched on in anguish for the last decade as fierce rivals Olympique de Marseille (l'OM) and, in particular, Olympique Lyonnnais (l'OL) have dominated France's Ligue 1.


But this status quo may be about to change...

For on 31 May, Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), owners of the Harrods Group and shareholders in the London Stock Exhange, supermarket chain Sainsbury's and car manufacturer Volkswagen, bought a 70 percent stake in PSG.

Since then, French internationals Jeremy Menez (formerly of AS Roma), Kevin Gameiro (Lorient), Nicolas Douchez (Rennes) and Blaise Matuidi (Saint Etienne) have arrived alongside Serbian defender Milan Bisevac (Valenciennes).

Having missed out on the signing of skillful Moroccan playmaker Adel Taarabt—owing to a misunderstanding between the club's owners and new Sporting Director Leonardo over the player's transfer value—the club is now being linked with Palermo's Argentinian midfielder Javier Pastore, who has a release clause of €100 million (£85 million).

This move may not happen, especially as Chelsea—who can offer UEFA Champions League football—are reportedly the front-runners. Nevertheless, it marks a significant shift of the goal posts for PSG in terms of their ambitions in the long term and the noises they are making now.

For a while now, French football fans have been resigned to losing their most talented footballers to bigger European leagues which attract larger fanbases and more TV revenue, before they hit the prime period of their careers. Recent examples of this include Michael Essien, Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry.

This dampened the interest in Ligue 1 outside of the most loyal and hardy of French football fans and also widened the financial gap between the top French clubs and those at the pinnacle of La Liga, the Premier League or Serie A.

Will QIA's arrival on the Seine change the scenery? Will the sovereign wealth fund's ability to pay transfer fees not many other clubs can offer create domination so brutally monotonous as to render French football even less appealing; or will their endeavors to form a team that is ''talented and solid,'' in the words of Nasser Al Khelaifi (the man who may control the destiny of the club) alter the dynamics of European and French football in a positive way?

Commenting on the acquisition of 70 percent of the club (American investment group Colony Capital still owns the other 30 percent), Al Khelaifi said recently:

''PSG has an enormous potential - it's the only big football club in a city of 12 million inhabitants! That's unique in Europe. Our aim is to qualify for the Champions League every year as of 2012.''

Of course, investment in the playing squad will be of utmost importance in achieving this goal. And playing in European domestic football's elite tournament will also increase the exposure of the club to football fans in many countries and bring in additional revenue.

This has been the case for Lyon, a club who won Ligue 1 in seven consecutive seasons and which, thanks to its significant presence in Champions League football, has become the richest club in French football, according to a 2009 survey carried out by magazine Le Point.

But the QIA will also have to look at securing bigger sponsorship deals, strategic football and commercial partnerships abroad and also at investing in the infrastructure of the club.

The first hurdle for the new PSG to clear will be prying the league title away from current holders Lille (shorn of star striker Gervinho) and the chasing pack. The ultimate challenge will be to go two steps further than Lyon managed last decade and win the Champions League.

Lyon chairman and owner Jean-Michel Aulas has received public criticism for running the club as a business and not investing heavily enough in the team, despite presiding over the most successful era in its history.

A lot is expected of PSG in the Al-Khelaifi era and money does not always buy success in football, but if promising forward Gameiro hits the ground running and the team's fans remain patient as coach Antoine Kombouare attempts to bring success to the Parc des Princes, PSG's Navy and Red shirt could soon be as iconic as AC Milan's Rossoneri shirt or Internazionale's Nerazzuri colours. And the team as important to the local culture and footballing DNA of the country as the Milan-based duo.