Al-Khelaïfi and PSG: nine years and 1.3 billion to reach the Champions League final

Nasser Al-Khelaïfi probably never would have imagined taking so long to savor his first Champions League final, also the first for Paris SG. It took the Qatari president nine years to achieve what he promised when he landed at the club in 2011, but perhaps in the strangest season in history the French team has been able to celebrate this milestone after beating RB Leipzig in the ‘semi-finals’.

The truth is that the path to get here has not been easy at all. In fact, quite the opposite. Despite dominating soccer domestically, PSG have been chaining disappointment after disappointment in Europe despite lavish investment in transfers, estimated at nearly € 1.3 billion.

Beginnings of a pharaonic project

After several years of ups and downs and with spontaneous successes, in 2011 the purchase of 70% of PSG shares by Qatar Investment Authority, the Sovereign Investment Fund of Qatar, materialized. The new ownership, which took full control the following year, promised to remodel the club to achieve the goal of lifting its first Champions League.

To do this, no expense was spared. The first step was to return to the Champions League and that same summer a legion of new players arrived with Javier Pastore at the helm. The first round of investment did not serve to conquer Ligue1 (he was second), but it laid the foundations of a team that would be consciously reinforced with the arrival of several cracks, starting with Zlatan Ibrahimovic (21 million), David Beckham (free), Thiago Silva (42M), Ezequiel Lavezzi (30M) and an unknown Marco Verratti (12M), among others, for the 2012/13 academic year.

Ibrahimovic and Carlo Ancelotti in their time at PSG

The curse of the rooms

This was the true beginning of the pharaonic project planned to achieve the coveted ‘orejona’. Things started in a promising way, with the team winning the league (it would also take the next four) and being eliminated by FC Barcelona in the quarterfinals only for the double value of the goals away from home.

Not satisfied, Al-Khelaïfi again pulled his checkbook in 2013 to incorporate Edinson Cavani (64.5 million) and Marquinhos (31.4), something that ensured PSG’s dominance in France but did not finish working as expected in Europe.

That year the team was once again removed from the top European competition in the quarterfinals against Chelsea after being unable to assert the 3-1 in the first leg, losing 2-0 at Stamford Bridge. The next time, Barça again, also in the quarterfinals, gave the Parisian team no option, which for 2015 again conscientiously scratched its pocket, spending 116 million euros, most of it dedicated to the landing of Ángel Di María (63M) .

Di María gave PSG a new boost
Di María gave PSG a new boost

But as happened to Spain until the arrival of Xavi, Iniesta, Cesc and company, the team continued to run aground in the quarterfinals. City, still with Pellegrini at the helm, again frustrated the dream of Al-Khalaïfi and PSG.

Ibra left in 2016 and, with Unai Emery on the bench, gave way to a new round of reinforcements (Draxler, Guedes, Krychowiak, Jesé, Lo Celso, Ben Arfa and Meunier) destined to have more depth in their squad. But not like that.

That year, in the round of 16, PSG lived one of its most bitter nights when they saw how Barcelona came back from 4-0 in the first leg in Paris with the historic and remembered 6-1 perpetrated at the Camp Nou.

Neymar and Mbappé

That defeat infuriated the Parisian board of directors, to such an extent that they decided to burst the market in 2017 with the mega-tickets of Neymar (222M) and Mbappé (180M), the two most expensive registered to date. They were promised very happy at PSG until they met Real Madrid in the second round.

The white team came back from Rabiot’s 0-1 at the Bernabéu and took a tie marked by Ney’s injury. Another misfortune for the Brazilian also brought down the French team from the Champions League the following year (2018/19), to the despair of Al-Khelaïfi.

PSG players celebrate their move to the Lisbon final.
PSG players celebrate their move to the Lisbon final.

However, after the second most ‘modest’ summer (95 million was spent) since the arrival of the Qatari owners, now it is when PSG has had its coveted prize. After sweeping France again (they won all the tournaments, including their seventh league in nine years), the French team has reached the first Champions League final in their history and hopes to meet the opponent to beat next Sunday, after 1,254 million of investment, having the option of lifting the ‘orejona’ for the first time.