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The Man City of France... Or Maybe Something Better?

Friday 5th August 2011
As I was watching the customary lunchtime Sky Sports News bulletin I saw something that would've been rather peculiar just a few months ago: the story that Dimitar Berbatov was seemingly edging closer to a move to Paris Saint-Germain. PSG have fascinated me during this transfer window. They have made some terrific and shrewd signings already this season which include Blaise Matiuidi for a bargain €10 million and the man mountain Mohamed Sissoko for €7 million. They have conducted business using what I like to call the "Davidson tactic" in Football Manager terms by signing a mix of players with proven ability and a few that could go either way but more importantly than that, they've done it fairly cheaply considering all the wealth that the new Qatari owners have behind them.

Let's talk about those Qatari owners. They breezed into the club on 31st May having been scared away from approaching Manchester United (could the Old Trafford faithful rue that decision?) and promised to bring success back to the French capital. They quickly installed Leonardo, himself a talented manger, as Director of Football which is something that I'm surprised more clubs don't do. They've also strengthened all across the park, unlike during City's first season with foreign riches as it seemed only strikers would do at Eastlands. With the transfer of Salvatore Sirigu I believe they've gotten away with daylight robbery. €3.5 million for a goalkeeper who whenever I've watched him play has been solid as a rock and a great organiser of a young back-line. Sirigu will relish working with a defence with players like Mamadou Sakho, who at 21 years old is already captain of Les Parisiens, so don't expect many teams to score against PSG. In fact if there is any area of concern within the team it is at the other end of the pitch. The midfield is strong but the strikeforce is comparatively weak with pressure being placed on new signing Kevin Gameiro who at Lorient was an unstoppable scoring machine. If he continues that form into next season then PSG are sure-fire favourites to win Ligue 1 and he'll have plenty of service with Bodmer, Matuidi and Menez behind him. Personally, I hope he can start a fruitful partnership with Erdinc and Hoarau but the addition of Berbatov would add a peace of mind in that area.

All this is without PSG's biggest signing yet (although he has yet to finalise the move) - Javier Pastore. Pastore is a brilliantly talented young player who was in the same Palermo side as Sirigu and at just 22 has established himself as one of Serie A's best players and destined for success in the future. He was linked with Chelsea, Man City and Real Madrid but in the end he has seemingly plumped for PSG. If that doesn't show that PSG are a club on the up then nothing will! He did cost them €43 million but if he fulfills his potential then he will repay that in due course. He will slot into the team nicely too - with Menez, Matuidi and Sissoko probably joining him in the middle of the park. The main appeal of Pastore is that he will not only create goals for your team, he'll go out and get them too. If it all comes together nicely then PSG are going to be unstoppable next season but there is always that chance that it may end up in disaster.

One advantage that PSG have is that Ligue 1 is not as much of a challenge for a team to win as the Premier League. Yes there are some great players in there and teams with a lot of history such as Lyon, Marseille, Monaco and PSG themselves but for a team with similar riches to Man City it is a simpler task to achieve domestic success. That isn't what the owners want though and neither should it be what they limit themselves to. They want European success, specifically in the Champions League and it'd be nice to see a team from a country other than Spain and England make their mark on the elite competition in Europe. I don't see why they can't do it either. They have a young and talented squad that only needs to be brushed up round the edges. The team has a great spine - Sirigu is a dependable goalkeeper, Sakho is an immensely talented centre-back with Matuidi in front of him who is a proven Ligue 1 star. Pastore is a creative force and a gem of a player and then you have Gameiro and Hoarau up front. French football is undergoing a renaissance and I hope Eurosport or ESPN starts to show Ligue 1 games in the near future. As for PSG, only time will tell whether the Qatari investment pays off or PSG suffer in the same way Notts County did when big money came their way. Whatever happens, it's a great time to be a PSG fan and hopefully a few more people will start following Ligue 1.

What could go wrong then? Well, the most obvious problem is the role of Leonardo. Here is a man who has managed two of the big names in European football and has won the World Cup as a player. He probably won't be suited to the job of Director of Football and if he gets restless then he'll have eyes on Antoine Kombouare's job as manager. In addition to this there are doubts as to whether the team will gel, whether players will live up to their potential and whether the owners will stay committed once the club eventually underperforms. It would be for the good of French football if PSG were on the rise again as alongside Lyon, Lille and Marseille there would be a defined top four in France as opposed to a top one of Lyon in recent years.
Tom Davidson

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