“Big signings? We will do some, we will do some.”
As Nasser Al-Khelaifi is answering a question from L’Equipe about transfers this summer, the Paris Saint-Germain chairman has a big grin on his face. It’s May, and the season has just ended. Already, the transfer window is in everyone’s minds. Can PSG really strengthen their squad? How much can they spend? Who will they get?
Some two months later, it’s fair to say that Al-Khelaifi wasn’t lying.
The big signings are here, and the shopping isn’t over just yet either. Georginio Wijnaldum, Achraf Hakimi, Sergio Ramos and Gianluigi Donnarumma all are newly minted PSG players. And there are still big names that the club is interested in. Paul Pogba is the priority in midfield, as sources told ESPN last week. Moise Kean would be welcomed back on loan if Everton agree. Stade Rennes starlet Eduardo Camavinga is an alternative to Pogba if Les Parisiens are unable to bring the 2018 World Cup-winner home. Lazio forward Joaquin Correa is a player that both sporting director Leonardo and manager Mauricio Pochettino really like, sources have told ESPN.
And, not for nothing, PSG were determined to try their luck in bringing Lionel Messi to the French capital, too. It’s all for naught now, with sources telling ESPN he’s signed a new contract at Barcelona, but the intent was there.
ESPN reported in February that the club was going to target free agents. PSG did just that with Wijnaldum, Donnarumma and Ramos. This is arguably the best list of free agents signing for the same club in the same window — ever. They also extended their search to players with just one year left on their contracts, which could represent great value and affordable opportunities, such as Pogba and Camavinga.
Hakimi is the only exception. Inter Milan needed to raise funds by moving on the 22-year-old Morocco international, and PSG were in the market for a right-back. He is probably the best in Europe in his position, and €60 million is a fair transfer fee.
Leonardo was under pressure. He had to deliver a successful window. There is still a long way to go, especially in finding new homes for players no longer in Pochettino’s plans, but he has so far exceeded expectations with the players he’s brought in. Pochettino is delighted by how much stronger the squad is. Some players will leave (Mitchel Bakker has already joined Bayer Leverkusen, while Leandro Paredes, Pablo Sarabia, Ander Herrera, Layvin Kurzawa and Thilo Kehrer all are available) but already the potential of this team is frightening.
Of course, new signings, especially big names, often bring a bit of tension in the dressing room. Goalkeeper Keylor Navas wasn’t happy with the arrival of Donnarumma, who will be a direct competitor for his place in the team. On the back of a fine season for him, the Costa Rica vice-captain didn’t understand why they would recruit another keeper. Presnel Kimpembe was equally annoyed by the arrival of Ramos, who won’t be there to sit on the bench.
“We will never stop being ambitious,” Al-Khelaifi said. After two quiet summers in the market, PSG wanted to make a statement. After losing a Champions League final and semifinal in back-to-back years, they wanted to show the other big European clubs that they meant business, especially with financial fair play regulations loosening up.
They also wanted to show a certain Kylian Mbappe what they were about. The negotiations over a new contract are ongoing, and the competitiveness of the team has always been central. The message from Mbappe, who is into the last year of his contract, can be distilled down to: “Show me that we can build a team capable of winning the Champions League.” To convince him to stay, that’s what they are doing. The Frenchman is impressed by the signings, and he believes that Pochettino will make something special of this squad. But he still hasn’t signed a new contract.
So far, PSG are winning this transfer window. Yet, the feeling within the club and the recruitment team is that the shopping spree is not finished, and that there is more to come.
Ten years ago, Qatar Sports Investments took over the club and have been chasing the Champions League ever since. There is a firm belief that with Pochettino in the dugout and such a fantastic squad at his disposal, coupled with the experiences of the past two seasons, they have never been so close to achieving that goal.