Paris St-Germain could reach the last 16 of the Champions League for the twelfth season in a row if they beat Newcastle on Tuesday – yet their record in the competition is still mocked by many outside the French capital.
They have reached just one final, when they were beaten by Bayern Munich in 2020, and a solitary semi-final, which they lost to Manchester City the following season.
Of course, PSG has spent a lot of money and boasts some of the biggest names in the sport, including Neymar, Lionel Messi, Thiago Silva, Angel di Maria, Edinson Cavani, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and, still, Kylian Mbappé.
But Chief Revenue Officer Marc Armstrong completely rejects claims that PSG’s status is being damaged by their inability to lift the biggest trophy in European clubbing.
“You don’t have to win the Champions League to be a successful football club,” he said.
“Would we like to win it? Yes. In the last four seasons we have been in a final and a semi-final. We are one of only three teams to have been in the knockout stages every season since 2012-2013, along with Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, we rank fourth in the UEFA coefficient.
“But the chairman was very candid about the new sports strategy this summer [Champions League] is not an obsession.”
Moving away from the Galacticos era
Speaking at the club’s luxurious offices in central London and then during a visit to the PSG store on Oxford Street, which opened in September, Armstrong was keen to emphasize that the club is taking a different direction on the pitch than before. .
Mbappé, Neymar and Messi were part of the ‘galacticos’ approach. It has given PSG nine league titles and six French cups since the club was acquired by Qatar Sports Investments (QSI) in 2011.
For most of the summer it looked like all three players would leave – only for the breach of contract with Mbappe to see him banished from the first-team squad at one point in the belief that he was ready to leave for Real Madrid at the time he left. at the end of the season, to reach a point where both sides felt they could move forward together.
Armstrong has been reluctant to discuss Mbappe’s future, although there are reports that the 24-year-old is now considering staying at PSG rather than realizing what many believe to be a boyhood dream of joining Real.
“He is obviously a great player and important from a sporting point of view,” he said.
“But commercially we are bigger than any other player. It’s about the brand and what we are building. We know we will always have a strong competitive squad on the pitch. There will always be investment, both on and off the field to continue.” to grow.”
Defending their ownership and stadium issues
As is the case with Newcastle and Manchester City, and surrounding Sheikh Jassim’s attempts to buy Manchester United, PSG have had to answer questions about the source of their funding.
Qatar is a small Gulf state that has become enormously wealthy through its natural gas reserves. It has also been crucial in negotiating a pause in fighting in the United States war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza under an agreement that also included the release of some hostages held by Hamas. But Hamas’s political office, based in Doha, has raised questions about Qatar’s relationship with the organization that the British government has characterized as a “terrorist group.”
PSG is privately calm about their position and rejects the idea that most of their impressive commercial revenue figures come from deals struck with Qatari sponsors.
“Six of our 35 sponsors are from Qatar,” Armstrong said. ‘It’s less than 20% of our global turnover.
“It is clear that some Qatari brands want to associate themselves with a Qatari club. Qatar Airways is the sponsor of many properties. They have been on the shirt of Barcelona, and Roma. It is normal to have them on our shirt and you understand why they would want that.” to do that.”
There is no doubt that the club’s hierarchy is in powerful positions, with chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi installed as one of the most important people in the European game after becoming president of the European Clubs’ Association in the wake of the controversy over the Super League, which is due to reach a conclusion next month when the European Court of Justice rules.
There is also no doubt that they look at the long term. Their current problem is trying to reach an agreement to increase the capacity of the Parc des Princes well beyond the current 48,583.
The threat of a move from PSG’s spiritual home lingers, possibly to the Stade de France, which is currently the subject of bids for a 25-year lease and outright purchase.
“Our clear preference is for the redevelopment of the Parc des Princes,” Armstrong said. “It is our historic home. It’s where we want to be, where the fans want us to be and it’s within the city limits.
“But the money it takes to make it the stadium it needs to be is enormous. We are willing to spend that and we want to, but the city has to sell us the building.”
“We have been very clear and have seriously looked for other options over the past year.”
PSG are spending a lot of time redeveloping their youth academy.
The greater Paris area, they argue, is the largest developer of talent in the world and more productive than Sao Paulo in Brazil.
PSG’s reasoning is that rather than allow the likes of Paris-born Mbappé to develop in Monaco and then buy him for an eye-watering £165 million, it is better to move those players to the club.
This is part of the reforms Armstrong is talking about as PSG enters the next phase of ownership, winning 33 trophies and building the brand.
After the World Cup in Qatar, QSI is considering taking over part of a Premier League club.
Talks with Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy came to nothing as the price was too high and speculation around interest in the almost 10% stake in West Ham co-owner Vanessa Gold that he is willing to sell has been quashed.
However, they are looking, just as they committed to selling a small part of PSG.
“There is no interest in selling the club,” Armstrong said. “It’s about taking the company to the next level and opening key markets.”
Win or lose against Newcastle, with the Eiffel Tower on their crest, a single big club in one of the most popular cities in the world, PSG’s momentum is undoubtedly progressive.