The Folly of Paris – How nostalgia may make Paris Saint-Germain pay

The path to glory for Paris Saint-Germain seems littered with dollar bills, nostalgia and scattergun transfer policy – an approach, which history proves, is bound to fail.

Paris Saint-Germain, dominated by money, looking to make their mark in history

Perhaps, no city has ever been written about as much as a city that sits vividly on the bank of the river Seine: Paris. A testament to change, upheaval and rebuilding – the human struggle personified. No city has suffered as much either – from French revolutions to bombings that flattened the place. Two world wars, multiple revolutions, romances and scars that run deeper than history can ever tell us of.

At the club bearing the great city’s name, history seems to build a lot faster. Founded not even 50 years ago, Paris Saint-Germain, or, Les Parisiens as they’re more popularly known are France’s most successful team – with 33 trophies to their name so far.

The pace at which Paris Saint-Germain have progressed is a testament to the spirit of the human condition. We strive, all of us, to leave a mark on this world. In a city with so much history, the foundations of PSG tie back to King Louis XIV and his birthplace of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, and to Paris F.C. – two ends of their historical spectrum.

In its short stay in the history books, the all-time Paris Saint-Germain XI would boast multiple World Cup, European Cup and personal award winning players. An eclectic group of individuals and teams are peppered through its history. One thinks of George Weah and David Ginola flourishing under the Parisian conditions, feeling like kings of a city, that is deeply tied to the history of humanity itself. The younger ones will remember Ronaldinho before his Barca days, strutting his stuff in Ligue 1.

Nostalgia is well and good when you have hundreds of years of history and Paris does. In every street and every alleyway the ghosts of Hemingway, Dali and Josephine Baker remain even today. But, living in the past is to deny the present its dues and to live in a warped reality – a flaw in the mind that ensures that those associated with the club try to accelerate the development of a club to heights that it never truly achieved. While Paris Saint-Germain may be the most successful club in France, it is merely an infant on the European stage.

Among historic giants such as Manchester United, Real Madrid or Bayern Munich, Paris Saint Germain are the ‘nouveau riche’, standing on a step-ladder – expected to flatten the opposition in Ligue 1 – kings in their own backyard. But, on the continent, merely splashing the cash and slamming names together will not work.

A book written by Hemingway, with illustrations by Picasso and concepts from Dali may sound like a dream, but the end result would be an nightmare. Football is more than just putting out the theoretical best XI on paper and coming home with the trophies. However, with their fantasies already planned out, the Oryx Qatar Sports Investments was tasked with sending Paris Saint-Germain straight to the top after buying the club in 2011.

In seven years, and barely months after spending the equivalent of a small country’s GDP on a single player (Neymar) , PSG find themselves out of Europe and struggling for answers. They could yet walk Ligue 1 without the world’s most expensive player – out with injury – and no one would bat an eye. When two-times consecutive Champions League winners Real Madrid rolled into town, a squad assembled with eye watering amounts of money lost to an aging Merengues who, literally, only play in the Champions League and cannot be bothered to turn up in the domestic calendar.  

If money is power, and carving legends into the history books is what we must do, then Paris Saint-Germain are heading the wrong direction. At least, in the short term. They can learn lessons from the mighty Duodecima-winning Real Madrid themselves.

People have weird pastimes. For a construction magnate, Florentino Perez sure likes building impractical, expensive football teams that carry the brand of Europe’s most successful club. His Galactico project was so famous, and so obscure in its scattergun approach, that only he knew what he was up to with Real Madrid the first time around. Well-documented failures aside, Perez also had a seeming epiphany. Cue his second tenure, and Florentino has seen much more success, against opposition that has come into its own and matured as well. The best investments Madrid and Perez have made are in two crucial departments. The most important is Cristiano Ronaldo. The second is keeping the faith in Zinedine Zidane, with Perez seemingly learning the lessons from his first stint in charge and going for stability over glitz and glamour outright. Finally, common sense is prevailing at the Santiago Bernabeu. Or so we hope.

1,257 kilometres away in Paris, the QSI – a company with seemingly unlimited financial power is attempting to recreate the phenomenon. They’ve invested in, arguably, the world’s best talent of the future in Mbappe, with the world’s third best player – Neymar in the squad too. Les Galactiques are here to stay and conquer Europe, but they have only part of the formula right – they have the players, but do they dare ponder and be patient with their managers? Does the QSI give time to the ‘project’ to develop or just dump it and cut their losses?

A single look at this Paris Saint Germain team sheet will show you the embarrassment of riches at the disposal of the club but will fall short of painting a true picture. As Real Madrid would discover, much to their chagrin, that egos in a dressing room can’t be controlled, so too will Paris. Their short term gains policy has led to them becoming a financial juggernaut that is currently on a mission to build history at an even faster pace.

The City of Lights needs a football team to match its legacy. Paris Saint-Germain needs to be that team. 

For centuries, Paris suffered, prospered and was destroyed and rebuilt nearly as often. For fans of Paris Saint-Germain, one hopes that the QSI-funded project is just beginning – this club still needs to make its mark in history, to become part of the legend surrounding the City of Lights.

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Taronish Elavia

Supports FC Barcelona, sells lies in the form of advertising. Occasionally writes poetry, always makes people smile.