The similarities between Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City are obvious and broad. In recent years, both have been taken over by fantastically wealthy Middle Eastern dynasties (City by the Abu Dhabi United Group in 2008, PSG by Qatar Sports Investments in 2011) with the unswerving intention of transforming each club into a European superpower and global brand. To that end each has so far been furnished with over a billion pounds for transfers alone, luring superstars who would previously have showcased their elite talents at the Bernabeu or Camp Nou. It’s a level of investment that has changed the landscape of modern football forever.
Together they are the nouveaux riche, dead-set on shaking up the old order and establishing themselves firmly amongst it by dominating their respective leagues and regularly competing in the latter stages of the Champions League. It is almost redundant to state that winning the prestigious tournament is the end game for each new behemoth.
Yet if the fortunes and intentions of PSG and City mirror one another it is becoming increasingly clear that their methods beyond that differ through necessity. Indeed it could be argued that one is presently out-stripping the other and in doing so are closer to attaining their jug-eared validation; their Holy Grail.
Kylian Mbappe alluded to this on signing for the French side two weeks ago for an astronomical fee that will eventually add up to €180m plus bonuses. “We will realise this dream of winning the Champions League,” the teen prodigy said before answering a softball enquiry about playing alongside Neymar: “He is an additional advantage. It is extraordinary to play with him. However, I came for the project”.
Viewing their quests as ‘projects’ is another shared link between PSG and City, but we must skip past that and concentrate instead on the €400m of striking prowess mentioned above. By general consensus Neymar is the third best player on the planet and his shock switch to Paris this summer considerably elevates PSG’s standing. Mbappe meanwhile is destined to join him on that rarefied plateau sooner if not later. Their signatures not only dramatically increase PSG’s chances of progressing past the quarter-final stage of this year’s Champions League (the quarter finals being their deepest run to this point) but are a serious statement of intent to do so again next season and the season after.
City wanted Mbappe. I mean, every club wanted Mbappe, but City really wanted him and we don’t need to muddle through the archived gossip columns to know that the reason they didn’t procure the current superstar and future megastar was because they baulked at the eye-watering sums involved. Straying a touch into conjecture, we’re also on safe ground to assume that they wanted Neymar Jr too and it is pretty inconceivable that they weren’t made aware of his availability through his father/agent. Yet both went to PSG, strengthening their forward line to the extent where many now are making direct comparisons between Mbappe, Neymar and Cavani and Barcelona’s recent MSN trio of fantasia. Throw in the freebie securement of Dani Alves – arguably the finest right-back in the world, if in the twilight of his career and snatched at the very last moment from City’s clutches – and that’s a substantial 3-0 triumph for the Parisians over Manchester in galactico squad building.
And therein lies the rub, because despite having an enormous war-chest to spend this transfer window, Pep Guardiola needed to prioritise on expensive defensive recruits and FFP restrictions simply didn’t allow for exorbitant decadence. Manchester City’s days of galactico squad building are over. Their days of buying Adebayor, Tevez, and Roque Santa Cruz in a single window just because they could are long gone. In spending more than any other English club this summer it would be an enormous stretch to suggest that City have limited themselves by prudence. Yet by the same token they must be looking across the channel and thinking ‘That was once us”.
Quite how PSG have managed to circumnavigate UEFA’s Financial Fair Play regulations will all come out in the wash and is a highly complex situation currently under investigation by the governing body. For now though, before the sanctions or sweeping under the carpet, we are left with a club transformed a full three years after Manchester City were primed as second favourites behind Real Madrid to lift the Champions league next May. City are twice the odds to do so.
If that were not enough cause for agitation, the difference in standards between each club’s respective leagues also sways favour to the Qatari owned ‘project’. While City must fight at full strength for ten arduous months to compete for the title with Chelsea, Manchester United, Spurs, Arsenal, and Liverpool, in Ligue 1 les Rouge-et-Bleu are expected to comfortably romp home to their fifth title in six years. Ironically their only potential rival Monaco saw many of their finest assets stripped off them by the Premier League this summer, leaving the path clear for Unai Emery to rest his prized talent post-Christmas, keeping them fresh and lethal for the resumption of Champions League football in March. To quote Mbappe’s understatement on having a magical, brilliant Brazilian playing alongside you: that is an additional advantage.
It is farcical to suggest such a ridiculously talented squad as Manchester City’s are far away from achieving European glory. The sad truth is though, that their upstart rich rivals are undeniably presently closer.