If you are a soccer fan who has somehow been in a coma for the past four years and just become conscious again, you might be shocked to see how the landscape of world football has changed. Now, most of the large clubs are still “in charge,” but there are some new challengers to the traditional powers. One of these new teams threatening to change the balance of power is Paris Saint-Germain.
Many of the largest clubs have a long history that they point to as a source of pride and expectation. PSG doesn’t quite fit that bill. The club was created just 44 years ago in 1970, resulting from a merger between Paris FC and Saint-Germain-en-Laye. Even though Paric FC split off again in 1972, PSG remained a club, returning to Ligue 1 in 1974. The club was competitive in the French league through the 70’s and 80’s, but was not anything like the titan you see today.
1996 saw PSG hit the peak of the club’s existence at that point, when Bruno N’Gotty scored the only goal in a 1-0 victory over Rapid Vienna in the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup Final. The event was a precursor to what is now the Champions League, so it was a pretty big deal. Though they would return to the final of the same competition the following season, PSG were on a downward slide that would last over a decade.
Despite the success of the mid-90’s, the club’s play on the pitch declined, along with the stability of the finances. Being in the capitol of France, the club had certain expectations that were not being met, which in turn snowballed and got out of hand. The 2000s were a constant battle with relegation, and in the latter part of the decade, had multiple fan violence events that turned deadly. The club took matters in to their own hands, launching “Tous PSG,” a plan to dissolve fan violence. The plan dissolved every supporter group in the stadium, but allowed some back in 2011. Tous PSG has done its job, as the club has seen a downturn in fan violence.
While all this occurred, the club had been running up its debt and losses. That was, until Qatar Sports Investments decided to buy the club. They bought 70% of the shares, covering the losses and debts from the previous ownership. The move made PSG the richest in France, if not the richest in the world. Just the issue of ownership is an interesting piece in and of itself, considering Qatar Sports Investments is run by their government. That means that PSG is owned by the country that is putting on the 2022 World Cup. Either way, the ownership eventually purchased the remaining shares of the team and became the sole shareholder.
What did happen however, is that the club decided to go all out and commit to a huge spending spree. PSG brought in multiple international stars, including Thiago Silva, Edinson Cavani, David Luiz, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. It is probably a safe bet to say that the ownership was interested in winning, and winning immediately. That is what they did.
Since the transition in 2011, PSG has won two Ligue 1 titles, two Trophee des Champions, and a Coupe de la Ligue. Throw in a few Champions League appearances, and you have yourself an elite club. To sum up the transition for PSG, I will use a few words from Drake: “0 to 100, real quck.” The turnaround form relegation battler to European juggernaut is nothing less than spectacular.
PSG doesn’t lack for rivals and competition though. They are currently a single point behind Lyon in Ligue 1, and did just enough to progress in a tough test against Chelsea in the Champions League. After a 1-1 tie at home against the Blues at home, PSG played with 10 men for a majority of the match after Zlatan Ibrahimovic was sent off with a straight red card. Things looked bleak when Chelsea went up 1-0, but David Luiz pulled them level with a powerful header. In extra time, Chelsea went ahead again, only to once again see PSG tie on a late Thiago Silva goal. Due to the away goals rule, PSG go through to the quarterfinals.
They are only a few home and away victories from really breaking through to the next level of clubs like Barcelona and Real Madrid. They are in the final of the Coupe de la Ligue, and in the semi-finals of the Coupe de France. That is a pretty hefty schedule when you factor in Ligue 1 games and the Champions League.
Going forward, there is plenty of reason to believe that PSG will stay at the top. They have a countries government as their backer, with millions of barrels of oil to barter with. With ownership like that, as long as the oil is flowing, the stars will continue to roll in. Stars are stars for a reason, and they usually bring success. Even though they may not have the history of a large club, PSG are definitely a New World Giant.