From its takeover by the Qataris to the arrival of Lionel Messi, how PSG has become an attractive club in ten years

With the signing of Lionel Messi, Paris-Saint-Germain (PSG) is pursuing a promising 2021 summer transfer window. This power of attraction of PSG, now capable of attracting the best players in the world, has taken a long time to take shape since the acquisition of the club by Qatar Sports Investments (QSI), in 2011. And has experienced several accelerators at key moments.

  • Summer 2011, recruitment stamped Ligue 1 to lay the foundations

With Brazilian sporting director Leonardo in charge, the first transfer window of the QSI era is intense. PSG just finished 4e League 1 and gives itself the means to find a Champions League that it has not played for seven years. The strategy ? Strengthen the workforce, but, unlike the years that will follow, without spending astronomical sums.

The record transfer of Javier Pastore (42.5 million euros from Palermo) monopolizes media attention, but the capital club favors arrivals of French players: Kevin Gameiro (2e top scorer in the championship with Lorient), Blaise Matuidi (Saint-Etienne) and Jérémy Ménez (AS Roma) sign against ten million euros each.

“Only” qualified in the Europa League, PSG does not yet have arguments likely to convince the biggest stars. It was in the winter of 2012 that the club made its debut among the greats: Alex (Chelsea) and Thiago Motta (Inter Milan) arrived, as did coach Carlo Ancelotti, double winner of the Champions League with AC Milan.

  • Summer 2012 and winter 2013, the media blows

Back in the Champions League and with a coach passed by the biggest clubs, Paris is making big hits on the transfer market. Now is the time to buy stars whose aura goes beyond football. The arrival of Zlatan Ibrahimovic meets this criterion. More than a world-class striker, the Swede is a character in his own right, a mark allowing PSG to exist beyond the pitch.

David Beckham and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who surround Jérémy Ménez, are the two symbols of the era infused in 2012 by QSI - here at the Parc des Princes, in Paris, on February 24, 2013.

This strategy will intensify, sometimes to the point of caricature, with the signing in the winter of 2013 of a David Beckham at the end of his career. The Englishman will play 14 ends of matches, but will offer a huge publicity stunt to a PSG which is going global: Ezequiel Lavezzi (Argentina), Thiago Silva, Lucas Moura, David Luiz (Brazil), Edinson Cavani (Uruguay), Marco Verratti ( Italy) and Gregory van der Wiel (Netherlands) joined the club between 2013 and 2014.

  • Summer 2017, revitalize a project that is running out of steam

The years go by and look alike: without real competition in the league, PSG falters in the spring, as the final rounds of the Champions League approach. Four successive eliminations in the quarter-finals (Barcelona in 2013 and 2015, Chelsea in 2014, Manchester City in 2016) prevent PSG from reaching a level.

On the transfer market, Leonardo’s departure at the end of 2013 was accompanied by a change of course: the summers of 2014 and 2015 were calm, despite the signing of Angel Di Maria (63 million euros).

The 2016-2017 season, sportingly failed, will propel PSG into a new dimension. The transfer window piloted by the new sporting director Patrick Kluivert did not have the desired effect: Grzegorz Krychowiak, Hatem Ben Arfa and Jesé, recruited by the Dutchman, did not win. Worse, Paris lets slip a first title since 2012 – for the benefit of Monaco – and cash a historic setback (1-6) in the knockout stages of the Champions League, in Barcelona.

Kylian Mbappé and Neymar, stars of the 2017 transfer window - here at the Parc des Princes, in Paris, on December 9, 2020.

This is too much for QSI, who breaks the piggy bank by bringing in Neymar (222 million euros) and Kylian Mbappé (loan with option to buy of 180 million euros), the two biggest transfers in history . The experienced Daniel Alves also arrives, in a transfer window led by Antero Henrique, debauched sports director of Porto. PSG, which was regularly mocked for wiping out the refusals of many stars, attracts the most highly rated players on the planet.

  • Summer 2021, Paris alone in the world?

The change of era of PSG is valid sportingly: after three years of eliminations in the round of 16, the club breaks the glass ceiling and reaches the Champions League final in 2020, then the semi-finals in May 2021.

The 2021 summer transfer window shows that PSG is now able to attract the big names. A power of attraction due, among other things, to the club’s economic model: supported by a state with almost inexhaustible funds, PSG has suffered less than its rivals from the Covid-19 crisis.

Even without spending transfer fees, with most of the newcomers at the end of their contracts, the club were able to offer significant signing bonuses to Georginio Wijnaldum (Liverpool), Gianluigi Donnarumma (AC Milan), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid) and, therefore, Lionel Messi (Barcelona). The only paying arrival (Achraf Hakimi, for 60 million) was not an obstacle.

PSG also concluded these arrivals by benefiting from “market opportunities”: the Parisian leaders thus took advantage of the respective problems of Donnarumma, Ramos or Messi with their clubs to recruit them. Likewise, Hakimi’s arrival was helped by Inter Milan’s financial problems.

Read also: Ligue 1 expects a “Messi effect”, but the economic impact would remain limited