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Soccer Champions League

Carlo Ancelotti Feels the Pressure in Paris

In the summer of 2011, the Qatar Investment Authority took ownership of French Ligue 1 side Paris Saint-Germain. Though PSG had always been one of the more glamorous and important sides in French football (in their eyes anyway), they had fallen away in terms of success in the 21st Century.

Olympique Lyonnais had provided an admirable model for developing players and financial stability, and this saw OL as the dominant team in France, with seven Ligue 1 titles between 2000 and 2008. The other sides challenging included Marseilles, Bordeaux, and Lille, but PSG mostly seemed like an afterthought.

The Middle Eastern money invested in PSG had an immediate effect. By Christmas 2011, PSG were top of the table, helped by the signing of big names: Jeremy Menez, Mohammed Sissoko, and French record signing Javier Pastore (€43m). Though this was progress, it clearly wasn’t enough for the new owners. To match big ambitions and big egos, you need a “big manager,” and they felt that despite steering PSG to the top of the table, Antoine Kombouare was not that man. Enter legendary Italian manager Carlo Ancelotti, who became the highest-earning manager in French Football history.

Ancelloti immediately spent another  €19m of the Qatari money on players like Italian midfielder Thiago Motta, but it failed to have the desired effect, and PSG finished the season in second place behind relative paupers Montpellier.

Of course that has sparked another wave of flashing Qatari money around the clubs of Europe and South America. After spending €108m the previous summer, this summer PSG’s spending currently stands at €150m—the highest in Europe. This spending has bought them some undoubted quality in Lavezzi, Ibrahimovic, and Thiago Silva, amongst others.

So, with all this money spent and all this quality introduced, surely PSG are on fire now? Nope. So far they’ve played two games and drawn them both. It’s too early to talk of either PSG or Ancelotti being in crisis, but I suspect that his bosses are not the sort of people to spend €258m in 13 months so they can carefully develop an infrastructure. If they sacked the last manager when he was top of the table, then Ancelotti may soon discover how mortal he really is.