Champions League: Paris Saint-Germain vs Manchester City and why Qatar and United Arab Emirates, investment in football ‘is potentially worth its weight in gold’

The investment in the two clubs earned their 2016 meeting the nickname ‘El Cashico’, and the teams met again in Paris on Wednesday with the aim of earning a place in this year’s Champions League final. . City came from behind to win the first leg 2-1 with goals from Kevin de Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez.

As in 2016, both clubs continue to boast of having star-studded rosters – a common theme over the past decade.

PSG have spent over $ 500million on transfers in the two seasons they signed Neymar and Kylian Mbappé – star players who continue to lead the club’s attack – while City have also spent generously in regards to transfer fees – over $ 2.3 billion between 2008, when Abu Dhabi United Group (ADUG) bought the club, and 2019.

The arrival of these owners has undoubtedly changed the fortunes of both teams. City are set to win a fifth Premier League title under the ownership of ADUG, a private investment firm owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, while PSG have won seven of the last eight league titles in France after that Qatar Sports Investments bought the club. in 2011.

Sheikh Mansour (right) has owned Manchester City since 2008.

But neither has been able to match this national success with European silverware. The Champions League, a competition made up of teams from across Europe, is considered the pinnacle of club football, and last year’s champions Bayern Munich won € 19m (23m of dollars) by winning the final alone.

“It’s quite remarkable that we have indeed now had a decade of this type of investment in PSG and Manchester City and so far none of them have won the Champions League,” Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, Middle East researcher at Baker University. Institute, says CNN Sport.

“In the future, we might look back and think: What took them so long?” Adds Ulrichsen. “Whoever wins this game, if he wins the Champions League, I think it could be one of those turning points that only become fully apparent after the fact.”

Making the Champions League semi-finals for the second time since buying ADUG, victory in this year’s competition would be a big milestone for City owners.

Their ambitious project saw the club become the centerpiece of City Football Group, a global network of associate clubs established by ADUG in 2013, and the investment funded a new academic stadium and training facilities around the Etihad Stadium in the east of Manchester.

READ: Julian Nagelsmann to become Bayern Munich’s new coach
Rodrigo of Manchester City scores against Aston Villa.

You don’t have to look far in the Premier League to recognize how the UAE, a small Middle Eastern country of nearly 10 million people, is making its mark on English football.

“While in the past we used to talk about going to (City’s) Maine Road or (Arsenal’s) Highbury, it now goes to the Etihad or the Emirates – it’s entered in the dictionary of football fans itself,” says Ulrichsen.

“I mean, it’s free publicity, potentially worth its weight in gold. And you can’t really quantify it. I mean, you talk about going to the Etihad the same way you do. talk about going to Old Trafford. “

Regarding PSG, Ulrichsen notes that Qatari ownership of the club is not as closely tied to the country’s political leadership as Man City is with the United Arab Emirates, where Sheikh Mansour is Presidential Affairs Minister and Vice-President. Prime Minister.

But Qatar’s investment in football – through PSG, sponsorship deals and, more recently, hosting the 2022 World Cup – has also been a way of raising the country’s visibility.

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PSG President Nasser Al Khelaïfi poses with head coach Mauricio Pochettino, who was appointed earlier this season.
While some have referred to the Middle East’s investments in European football as ‘sportswashing’ – a term that refers to the way an autocratic regime polishes its image through sport – what is undeniable is the overall effect of this type of “soft power”. ”

“What the two countries have done is strengthen visibility, build a profile, build a reputation, create associations in the minds of people around the world with countries through football.” , Simon Chadwick, director of the Center for Eurasian Sport Industry at Emlyon Business School in France, tells CNN Sport.

Over time, the investment pays off. Chadwick adds: “The nation’s profile, image, reputation, branding – it’s all part of ROI, ROI, spending on football in the first place.

“The soft power effect is obviously linked to this. And the soft power effect means that people outside the region will look to the region in a more positive way and be drawn to what the region is trying to do … impact diplomacy as well. “

The political rivalry between Qatar and the United Arab Emirates is also noteworthy. Earlier this year, the United Arab Emirates, along with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt, agreed to restore diplomatic relations with Qatar and end a boycott dating back to mid-2017.

“They reconciled in January, but there are still a lot of needles between the two countries,” Neil Quilliam, associate researcher in the Middle East and North Africa program at the Chatham House think tank, told CNN Sport.

“The competition between the two is really literally played out on the football field. They’ve gone from a real competition in the region – where one state blocks another – to this semi-final where the two teams go head-to-head., essentially, for a place in the final. There’s some real drama and politics to that. ”

Mbappé and Neymar celebrate against Bayern Munich.
This week’s semi-finals overshadow the fallout from the Super League, which saw 12 of Europe’s top clubs agree to join a new competition in place of the Champions League. Like the other five English entrants, City signed up for the Super League before retiring days later, while PSG refused to join in the first place.

Attention can now turn to this season’s Champions League finals, with Real Madrid and Chelsea playing a 1-1 draw in the first semi-final on Tuesday.

Having reached the final last year, PSG, led by the brilliant Mbappé, beat Barcelona and Bayern Munich to reach the four Champions League finals, while City, who won the EFL Cup on Sunday and are on on the verge of winning the Premier League title, has so far defeated Borussia Dortmund and Borussia Mönchengladbach in the round of 16.

On Wednesday, club ownership will take a step forward to win the trophy the two have sought for the past decade.

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