Next year it will be a decade since Manchester United’s last triumph in the UEFA Champions League and although the Red Devils reached the final in 2009 and 2011, when it comes to European football’s top competition, people seldom remember the runners-up.
Having kicked off this season’s ‘return to the’ UCL campaign with a neat 3-0 victory over Swiss side Basel at Old Trafford and a storming 4-1 win away at CSKA Moscow, Jose Mourinho’s men know they still have to contend with the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich for this term’s trophy…plus, there’s a new kid on the “Europe’s Elite” block – Paris Saint-Germain.
PSG’s European record is laughable given that they are the biggest team in Paris, but they are now owned by mega-rich Qatari owners and have a playing squad that contains talent such as Thiago Silva, Marco Verratti, Thiago Motta, ex-Red Devil Angel Di Maria, Dani Alves, Kylian Mbappe, and of course, Neymar – the man involved in the shorts-wetting mega deal with Barcelona earlier this term, and one of the most controversial deals in history (and you can read more about the fuss surrounding this deal in this recent AskFans report).
UEFA’s Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules were put in place a few years ago to help establish a more even field for Europe’s top teams, and to prevent the top tier of football’s finances spiralling out of control. It was also to (largely) prevent the world’s mega-rich from sweeping into clubs and snapping up most of the world’s top players (although that tactic was hardly a success for Real Madrid during their ‘Los Galacticos’ period). Therefore, football personnel, pundits and fans have been scratching their heads trying to work out how PSG have managed to sign a player for such an exorbitant fee of €222 million.
PSG’s Qatari owners are adamant in their position that they’ve done nothing wrong. According to FFP regulations, a club’s ‘competitive’ expenditure can only exceed their income by a relatively small amount. That €222 million fee can be paid in instalments over the five-year length of Neymar’s contract, but PSG have another big fee to worry about. After Neymar the French giants also signed ‘wunder-kid’ Kylain Mbappe from their fierce rivals Monaco. The Mbappe deal is a strange one – PSG get Mbappe free for one year, then if they want to keep him they must find another €145 million from somewhere, plus a potential €35 in add-ons.
Over €400 million spent on two players is a ridiculous amount of money, but that’s not really the issue. The issue is how are PSG managing to spend that amount of cash (and pay the required wages) yet remain within FFP regulations. Qatari’s owners say that the money will be covered by the rise in commercial merchandise sales because of the recruitment of these players, but owners of Europe’s other elite sides are not so convinced. Let’s hope for PSG’s sake they are able to balance their books and not suffer the same fate as Turkish side Galatasaray, who have been banned by UEFA from European competition for two years for their own FFP breach.