PSG Project is Working; Rest Comes Down to Zlatan Ibrahimovic
French side Paris Saint-Germain want their fans to do one simple thing when it comes to supporting their side: Revon Plus Grand, or Dream Bigger. Founded as early as 1970, PSG historically has been a decent side, but the Parisian’s accomplishments both domestically and in Europe wouldn’t even stack halfway up the Eiffel Tower. In short, they have never reached the heights that the city they are based in has. They have won Ligue 1 a modest three times in their history and hold eight Coupe de France titles, leading them to be considered France’s fourth best club of all time, behind arch-rivals Marseille.
Despite being based out of one of Europe’s biggest metropolitan areas, Parisian’s have never quite embraced soccer in the same way as fans in Italy, Spain or England, which could explain the sides relative lack of trophies. As described by an American living in Paris, soccer is only followed by “hillbillies and working class males,” not the champagne and caviar section of Paris. These were the only fans that PSG had that were capable of dreaming bigger, until president Nasser Al-Khelaifi and Middle Eastern investment group QSI bought the club in 2011, transforming them into one of the richest sport organizations in the world.
A lot of their success has been down to their immense buying power, which has allowed them to spend upwards of half a billion Euros in an attempt to build a team capable of winning Ligue 1 and the Champions League. After former Inter Milan coach Leonardo was appointed as director of football, he began raiding Italy’s Serie A for players like goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu, Brazilian captain Thiago Silva and midfielders Javier Pastore, Jeremy Menez, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Thiago Motta and Marco Verratti. PSG continued to build their team and fan base by giving a brief six month cameo the one and only David Beckham, and with one of the most recognizable figures in the sport of soccer donning the famous navy blue jersey, the PSG brand took off.
The spending didn’t stop there, however, and current manager Laurent Blanc brought in striker Edinson Cavani from Napoli for $84 million, and defenders Lucas Digne (Lille) and Marquinhos (Roma) for a combined $61 million in the summer. Followed by the $30 million move for Yohan Cabaye in the January transfer window, there are mummers that PSG are favorites to win this year’s Champions League.
With the marketing aspect of the project secured, and shirts flying off the shelves, it is even better that the team has gelled and has been playing great soccer at PSG’s Parc de Prince for the past two seasons. Under Italian coach Carlo Ancellotti, the Parisian’s won their first Ligue 1 title since 1994 last season, and continued on to the quarterfinals of the Champions League, where they lost on away goals to Barcelona after tying 3-3 over two legs. But the one aspect I failed to mention regarding PSG’s almost overnight success is that none of it would be possible if it weren’t for indestructible Swede, Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
In Ibrahimovic’s first season in France’s capital, he combined his unique ability to smash or dance through the competition, finding the back of nets around France and Europe 36 times in all competitions. A little over halfway through the 2014 season, Ibrahimovic already has 18 Ligue 1 goals, eight Champions League goals and five combined in the two French cups. With a five-point gap between them and AS Monaco at the summit of the table, PSG looks set to win back-to-back titles for the first time in club history.
On the Champions League front, the Parisian’s face a relatively easy task in their Round of 16 match against German side Bayer Leverkeuson, and Ibrahimovic is expected to make short work of the opposition. Sweden’s captain is on his way to becoming the top scorer in Ligue 1 for the second season running, and with his strength and ability, defenses around France are in trouble for the foreseeable future, as Ibra has claimed he wants to finish his career in Paris.
Ibrahimovic has been good not only on the field, but off it as well, where he has attracted the right kind of attention to the club by way of his goal-scoring exploits. If he can stay healthy, there is no reason that Ibrahimovic won’t continue to make dreams come true in Paris.