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11 Aug, 2021 17:31

Paris Saint-Germain president insists club have followed financial rules ‘since day 1’ as critics question mega-money Messi deal

Paris Saint-Germain president insists club have followed financial rules ‘since day 1’ as critics question mega-money Messi deal

Paris Saint-Germain have always followed fair play rules, the club's Qatari supremo has insisted after they handed Lionel Messi a whopping deal to join them – and motormouth Piers Morgan says shirts sales alone can cover the cost.

One of the first questions on many fans and casual observers' lips has been whether PSG have acted within the rules by signing Messi, who they are reportedly paying a salary of around $59 million.

Paris already have by far the largest wage bill of any French club, with figures suggesting that the annual earnings of Brazil striker Neymar – still the world's most expensive player after joining from Barcelona for around $270 million in 2017 – dwarf the entire wage bill of reigning Ligue 1 champions Lille.

Under the stipulations implemented in 2011, clubs' spending can only match their income. Should they transgress, they are not allowed to exceed that figure by more than around $35 million during the subsequent three years.

European football bosses at UEFA cleared PSG of breaking their Financial Fair Play (FFP) orders in 2018, when Kylian Mbappe, who had been on loan for a season from Monaco, followed Neymar through the door and became the second-costliest footballer ever in a deal worth a minimum of $230 million.

UEFA said PSG's accounts for the three financial years before 2018 met their regulations, although it added that they would continue to be scrutinized.

Clubs of the stature and commercial clout of PSG can have more room for maneuver than rivals with less income. Last season, for example, the club shifted sizeable earners such as Edinson Cavani and Thiago Silva from their wage bill when the Uruguayan switched to Manchester United and the center-back joined Chelsea.

PSG's appearances in the latter stages of the Champions League, including the final in 2020, are highly lucrative, and their average attendance, which was appraching 50,000 in pre-pandemic times, also brings receipts through the gates that almost no other top-flight team in France can rival.

The country's most high-profile club is also a huge pull for sponsors and other commercial partners, providing a significant part of the reason – on-pitch ingenuity aside – why Messi is such an attractive addition to their brand.

Messi is a footballing icon and one of the most heavily-followed athletes in the world. Some fan accounts have already been spotted changing allegiances in the 24 hours since he joined PSG, and shirts bearing his new number 30 were in immediate short supply as huge queues formed to snap them up.

La Liga and Barcelona were desperate to keep hold of the man who was synonymous with everything that was exciting and unique about their product, as cringeworthy as many supporters find that term when it is used to describe the sport.

Barcelona, as their fans are painfully aware, are in huge debt, finding their hands tied despite agreeing a new long-term deal with their willing legend because of the spending rules that apply to them.

Many column and screen inches have been devoted to Messi's net worth to Barca over the years, balancing his hefty wages with his value in a plethora of other areas, usually related to marketing masterplans.

Those assessments have unanimously agreed that the Argentina captain was not so much worth every penny as invaluable to them.

Never one to shirk a soundbite on a major news story, UK broadcaster Morgan, who has regularly been a critic of Arsenal's transfer activity and personally challenged former playmaker Mesut Ozil on his vast income at the Gunners, chirped up: "PSG will get their Messi money back in shirt sales in six months. Great business."

A PSG lover chimed in with a set of transfer tallies that appear to show their club lagging well behind big-spenders such as Manchester United, Barca and Manchester City in recent seasons, which would provide further justification for their shock new signing.

Not everyone is in agreement. As Messi's abrupt departure to France became increasingly likely last week, a group of lawyers representing Barcelona members complained to the European Court of Appeal to appeal that PSG spent almost all of their income on wages in the 2019/20 season.

That claim has evidently not progressed sufficiently to halt the transfer, and Nasser Al-Khelaifi, PSG's overlord on behalf of the Qatar Sports Investments (QSI) group he chairs, has been unequivocal after personally capturing Messi's signature.

"We follow FFP regulations from day one until the end. Before we do anything, we look at commercial and financial aspects and we had the capacity to sign him," he declared.

"We knew we could sign him and, today, what Leo is bringing to the club is huge.

"What you, as the media, need to focus on is not the negative side of things but the positives he can bring. He is an asset for the club and everything will grow commercially.

"In three days, you will be shocked. I hope he does not ask for any more in terms of salary but we always look at FFP and will always follow it."

Formed in 1970 and with relatively little European success behind them compared to the likes of Spain's major clubs, PSG have been regarded as lacking something of the caliber and history of their continental rivals.


Signing Messi while he is still in his prime guarantees them a place in history that it would be impossible to put a price on.

The relaxation of FFP rules during the pandemic has allowed them to act more boldly in the market, and the debate is certain to continue on social media about the impact of their activity on the competitiveness of Ligue 1.

Routinely derided as a 'farmers' league' by critics, the French league title was won by Paris for the first time since 1994 when they triumphed in 2012, two years after QSI's takeover. They have finished top in six out of eight campaigns since then.

They are, understandably, huge favorites to win it again this season, with Messi, Neymar and Mbappe providing a forward line that no team in the world would be able to combat when they are on top form, not to mention the array of international stars behind them.

Vincent Labrune was clearly unable to contain himself at the sight of Messi joining a league which is sometimes seen as a stepping stone for top talent.

The President of the Professional Football League took the highly unusual step of issuing a statement hailing Messi's deal as a "global event".

"It's a historic day for French professional football and [Ligue 1]," he gushed. "Lionel Messi is a football legend who writes the history of our sport alongside Pele and Maradona.

"It is a great chance for French supporters and for all football lovers to be able to see the best player in the world playing in our stadiums or on television."

In a fairly transparent encapsulation of his reasons for being so excited, Labrune called the coup "extraordinary news" for the league's "exhibition internationally".

"The arrival of Lionel Messi will increase the attractiveness and visibility of our championship on all continents," he predicted.

"The recruitment of Lionel Messi also offers the greatest hopes for Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League and, by extension, to all French football in the quest for a better UEFA index [rating].

"This unique event is the result of the strategy of the leaders of Paris Saint-Germain, which has enabled the Parisian club to become, in ten years, one of the largest franchises in world sport.

"On behalf of French professional football, I wanted to thank Nasser Al-Khelaïfi for making this dream possible. Messi is magic."

Talk of franchises may not enthrall traditionalists or purists, and boardrooms at top clubs across the world will surely be paying as much attention to proceedings as fans are.

"Keep the same energy when Chelsea and Man City do that [make major signings]," urged one supporter, responding to accusations of lavish spending against Paris.

"The sycophantic drooling around this – some of it from respected football writers – is an embarrassment," said another. "The other French clubs should be horrified."

Those teams will presumably have noted Labrune's decision to single out a club for praise after making what is, after all, a free transfer signing. They must now be hoping that the Messi effect will benefit them rather than making his new powerhouse a runaway force.

Also on rt.com ‘He’s bigger than the club’: Messi helps PSG add vast number of new followers – & ‘embarrassing’ reporters chant his name (VIDEO)