by Liam McConville
The transfer silly season is well and truly upon us, newspapers are desperately looking for spurious and very occasionally truthful rumours about who might be moving where. One club who have been linked with more players than most are the French outfit, Paris Saint-Germain. The Ligue 1 runners-up have been linked with everyone from Dimitar Berbatov to John Terry. However yesterday they made a real statement of intent by actually signing someone. The Napoli forward Ezequiel Lavezzi has signed for a reported fee of around £24million.
This is another coup for a club who will be competing in the Champions League group stages next season. They are still adjusting to life as a mega-rich club after being bought by Qatari investors in June 2011. Last summer saw a spending spree the like of which had never been seen before in French football. The likes of Jeremy Menez and Kevin Gameiro joined as a wave of new players moved to the French capital.
Then with a new squad starting to take shape, PSG made a move that sent shockwaves around Europe. The highly rated Argentine playmaker Javier Pastore joined for a French transfer record fee of £37.4million. Overseeing this summer recruitment was the newly installed former manager of both Milan clubs, Leonardo. Antoine Kombouare was allowed to continue in his role as manager although the presence of Leonardo cast a long shadow over Kombouare. Results were mixed early on but in December, PSG topped the table by three points. However there was a disappointment as they were dumped out of the Europa League in the group stages. So there was an eyebrow or two raised then when despite PSG’s league position, they sacked Kombouare.
Eyebrows were raised even further (no more than by the new manager himself) by who Leonardo unveiled to replace Kombouare. Carlo Ancelotti a man who has won league titles in Italy and England, not to mention two Champions Leagues in his managerial career seemed to be a good choice. January saw Ancelotti bring in Thiago Motta, Alex and Maxwell as they sought to win a first league title since 1994.
However the old football romantics will be pleased to hear that something entirely unexpected happened in the second half of last season. Montpellier a club dwarfed to PSG in terms of budget and size proceeded to thwart Ancelotti and claim their first Ligue 1 title. Montpellier’s surprise success is not likely to last though; they have already lost their top scorer Olivier Giroud to Arsenal.
This near miss is surely only going to make PSG more hungry for silverware. It is merely a delay to what will probably an era of dominance to rival that of Lyon’s domestic success in the 2000s. PSG have the spending power to match anyone in Europe and success on the continental stage may well be the barometer of which Ancelotti will be judged.
This summer they have already had a long drawn pursuit for arguably one of the world’s best defenders Thiago Silva. PSG agreed a fee for the Brazilian centre-back before he eventually agreed a new contract with AC Milan. Despite the fact that PSG failed to land Silva, that they are coming so close to signing players of his calibre shows just how far they’ve come in just twelve months. Lavezzi should be a great signing for the capital club and will probably be the first of many that arrive this summer.
PSG will go into next season as strong favourites to win the French title, anything less will be a huge disappointment. They are the only major club in Paris so their potential fanbase stretches well into the millions. Ancelotti is a shrewd operator who will be looking into making an impact on the Champions League despite their probable low seeding. When it all kicks off they will be a club that is feared and one that the top teams will be keen to avoid in the group stage draw.
Until then expect to see them popping in the transfer rumour mill as the question of which star will they land next? With the money that they have, don’t be surprised to see some of the Premier League’s established stars moving across the channel this summer.