For the last 3 years PSG have trotted to 1st place in Ligue 1, effortlessly brushing past their opposition, and winning in relative style. In 2013, they finished 12 points ahead, with a goal difference of 46, in 2014 they were 9 points ahead, with a whopping goal difference of 61, and finally last season they finished 8 points ahead, with a goal difference of 47. In case you needed another statistic with which to sum up their dominance, consider the fact they they have only lost 11 games over the last 3 seasons. Ultimately everyone knows that PSG are dominating Ligue 1, much as Lyon did a few years ago, however the real question is, in a league where there are very few superstar players and world class clubs, will anyone knock the Parisian club off their pedestal?
At the Moment, PSG sit 17 points clear of second placed Angers (Nope, me neither), and have a goal difference of 36. Angers, third place Monaco and fourth place Caen have a goal difference of 7, 2 and 2 respectively. It is safe to assume that PSG will win this title, but when their main rivals are Angers, Monaco, and Caen, who all got promoted within the last 3 years, one can’t help but wonder how far the league has fallen. Unfortunately, the standard of the league has allowed PSG to do things properly, and build the foundations of a world class club, rather than doing a, for example, Anzhi Makhachkala and cherry picking random footballers. They made a statement by bringing in Thiago Silva and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but in the background their Qatari owners, much like Sheikh Mansour at Manchester City, set about creating a club worthy of dominating France, rather than just a squad who would bring short term success. As such, we find ourselves here today, watching poorly funded and/or under supported clubs desperately trying to compete with the apparent bottomless pot of gold that PSG have been provided with. It seems unlikely that, as things stand, they will be toppled, however could something change in the near future to provide them with some real competition?
There are very few clubs in France that could provide a healthy platform for a sensible investment. AS Monaco tried but ultimately failed, due to poor investment and a lack of any real love for the game in the French Riviera. Look west, however, and you see Marseille. With a 67,000 seater stadium, a population of roughly 851,000, a predominantly working class society, and attractive living conditions for wealthy footballers, the 9 time winners of Ligue 1 could well be the best option for someone seeking to stake a claim in French football. Pedants will complain about rich owners buying clubs like sweeties, and ripping the soul out of them, however if the PSG model is anything to go by, that isn’t the case when things are done properly. Ultimately, a rival is what is needed to bring some competition to the league; and it is that competition that will attract players to join other clubs who wouldn’t otherwise consider a league where the champion is a foregone conclusion. French football gets very little coverage in foreign media, due mostly to the predictability of the league as a whole, and the relative dearth of world class talent, and bringing about another powerful club to rival PSG may well be the answer to both of these issues.
It must also be noted that PSG are not without fault. They have an average attendance of 45, 420 people per match, and for a city of 2.244 million people, this isn’t overly impressive. In comparison, Bayern Munich regularly attract 72,000 fans, despite only havin 1.388 million people in Munich, and Athletico Madrid, undeniably the lesser club in a city of 3 million, pull in well over 46,000 people. Considering that PSG are far and away the biggest club in France, Paris is in no way a footballing city, and this is in no small part due to the nouveaux riches aspect of their success. Before their successful campaign in 2012-13, they hadn’t won a title for 9 years, and remain the 8th most successful club in French football; Dominant they may be, steeped in a colourful and decorated history they are not. Further highlighting this is the fact that Zlatan Ibrahimovic has achieved the status of all-time top scored in 3 and a half years, while Edinson Cavani has also entered the top 10 in just 2 and a half years. PSG may be firmly perched on top of the pedestal, however they haven’t been there too long, and this makes them vulnerable- The quicker they rise, the quicker they fall, so to speak.
Time will tell whether or not anyone can actually usurp PSG, however it is a certainty that at the moment no-one is in a position to do so. The way this season is going, the Paris club will achieve their best finish to date, and will only get stronger as more money gets pumped into the club. A rival must come about, to ensure that the league doesn’t get left behind by a club that is setting its sights on national and continental dominance.