The history of Lionel Messi’s new club: Paris Saint-Germain, from beggar to millionaire

The history of Lionel Messi's new club: Paris Saint-Germain, from beggar to millionaire

“Paris Saint-Germain is the only major club in a European capital city where 12 million people live”says Nasser Al-Khelaïfi, current PSG president, to explain why Qatar decided to invest its millions right there. Just over half a century ago, when the club was founded, the reasons were the same.

The Paris that followed the French May needed new symbols. The city woke up to the revelation that high-level soccer was no longer played there. The historic Racing de Paris and the Stade Français were paling and the Red Star was not doing very well either. The capital of France was a football anomaly in Europe. A city with light, but without football.

In 1969, the French Federation decided to rectify the situation and commissioned Guy Crescent, Henri Patrelle and Fernand Sastre to give Paris what it did not have, a great football club. Entrepreneurs, leading an investment group that did not want to invest their own money, they ran into a problem that would be endemic for PSG: the economic one.

The myth says that the solution was provided by Santiago Bernabéu. The now legendary president of Real Madrid met in Paris with the troubled businessmen and recommended that they organize a collection among the Parisians. With the help of the media, which replicated the slogan “Do you want a great club in Paris?”, More than 20,000 signatures were quickly gathered and popular support gave rise to money.

Thus, on August 12, 1970, the Paris Saint-Germain Football Club, Lionel Messi’s new team, was founded.

PSG arises from the merger of 2 clubs, Paris FC and Stade Saint-Germanois
. The union was sealed in his shield. After an unambitious first logo, a white boat inside a blue balloon, the historic emblem with the Eiffel Tower, the global symbol of the city, was changed in 1972. At the foot of the red silhouette, the cradle of King Louis XIV, born in Saint Germain, and the white fleur-de-lis on a blue background. Under the Qatari mandate, the cradle disappeared and the word Paris gained prominence, as a brand effect. The rest remains intact. The tower and the flower. The red and blue of Paris and the revolution, the white of royalty. The colors of France.

The first idol of those colors was Jean Djorkaeff, Youri’s father (world champion with France and club player in the 90s). In its first season, PSG was champion and promoted to 1st division. But economic problems reappeared and differences over the management of finances fractured the unit of origin. Paris FC was 1st and PSG was relegated, administratively, to 3rd division.

In 1973, his financial savior was the renowned fashion designer Daniel Hechter. Hechter, referred to as the creator of ready-to-wear clothing, designed the iconic blue t-shirt with the red stripe across the chest alongside 2 white lines. With the renewed financial support PSG returned to being professional and in 1974 returned to the 1st division permanently. At the head of this football project was, as coach, the mythical Just Fontaine.

Hechter’s tenure ended abruptly and scandalously in 1978. The Federation suspended him for life when it was found that the club was over-selling tickets to the Parc des Princes as a strategy to reduce an uncontrollable deficit.

Francis Borelli became president and during the 80s he was in charge of installing PSG as the most important club in Paris. He did it, fundamentally, with titles. In 1982-83, with the double in the French Cup, and in 1986, with the Uruguayan Enzo Francescoli in the team, with his 1st League. The price of those first trophies was a huge financial crisis that not even the city of Paris wanted to help save.

Salvation, this time, brought it Channel +, a French TV group that saw an opportunity to improve its product, the French League, by improving one of its most important teams. The media group joined the club in 1991 and increased its income from televised matches. By 2005 it was already its sole shareholder.

The name of this stage was Michel Denisot, journalist, producer and director of the group’s football projects. With Denisot as president and the economic impulse of Channel +, PSG started to look like the club we know today. The money allowed him to hire French figures like Bernard Lama, David Ginola, Youri Djorkaeff and Bruno Ngotty. And international stars such as Raí, Leonardo, Dely Valdés and George Weah, who in 1995 was the 1st, and still only, club player to be voted the best in the world. The stars on the court filled the shield with stars. In these successful 90s, PSG won their 1st international title, the Recopa in 1996.

In the new centuryWith Denisot gone, PSG lost momentum and began racking up debt once again. The arrival of figures like Ronaldinho or the title of the Intertoto 2001 were not enough to balance increasingly red finances. Were years where fan violence and bored teams had emptied the stands, showcases and coffers. In 2006, after a terrible campaign, Channel + jumped ship and sold its shares to US capital for 41 million euros.

The 2007/08 season, now with its new owners, was even worse. PSG was saved from relegation on the last date thanks to a 2-1 win against Sochaux. Since then, Amara Diané, author of the goals, has been one of the club’s great idols. By 2010, Colony Capital, the majority owner, had already racked up too many failures and debt, and announced that it was looking for new investors.

In November 2010, Nicolas Sarkozy, President of France, gave a famous dinner at the Elysee Palace. Among the guests were Michel Platini, UEFA President, and Qatari Prince Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani. After that dinner 3 things happened. UEFA went on to support Qatar’s bid for the 2022 World Cup, the Qatari network Al Jazeera bought the rights to televise the French League in France and, In June 2011, the Qatar Investment Authority became the new owner of PSG for 100 million euros.

This is the most recent and well-known story. The rich and powerful PSG. The Qatari Paris Saint-Germain that in its first 2 seasons spent 250 million euros on high-profile signings (from Pastore to Ibrahimovic, from Beckham to Cavani) until they could win a French League. The one who broke the market in 2017 when he signed Neymar and Mbappé for 400 million euros. The one who reached the Champions League final in 2020, but could not against Bayern Munich.

“We have a very clear vision. In 5 years we want to be one of the best clubs in Europe and win the Champions League. Our brand will be worth a billion euros. And there we will be ”, said Nasser Al-Khelaïfi in 2014. He fulfilled almost everything. PSG is the 9th most valuable soccer brand in the world, 2.5 billion dollars, and one of the clubs that generates the most revenue, 541 million euros in 2019-20.

They just need to win the long-awaited UEFA Champions League. Now, more than ever, everything is given for them to achieve it. Anyway, Messi has already fulfilled the dream of the founders of PSG.

Paris is today, half a century later, the soccer capital of the world. His god plays there.

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