Pitchside

Off-field events again overshadow PSG celebrations

Pitchside

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A year ago it was Carlo Ancelotti, Leonardo and the foul play of their hooligan element.

Now it's Financial Fair Play.

For the second year running Paris Saint-Germain have been crowned French champions and once again they are unable to really bask in the glory.

PSG have now won as many titles in the last two seasons as they had in the previous 42. With a game to go, they have set a new record for the most points in a French top-flight season with 86. They also won the League Cup, and there has been individual recognition too.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, scorer of a club record 40 goals this season, was on Sunday named France's Player of the Year for the second season running. Marco Verratti took the Young Player prize and six PSG players were named in the team of the season, including Salvatore Sirigu (pictured), who was named best goalkeeper. But, as this blog wrote last summer, nothing to do with PSG is ever entirely straightforward.

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Last season, the celebrations of their first title in 19 years were overshadowed by the uncertainty surrounding the future of coach Ancelotti, who of course departed for Real Madrid. There was the hooligan violence that marred their victory celebrations in the city and there was the resignation of sporting director Leonardo after he was banned from all functions for 14 months for shoving a referee.

This time around there is more stability in the dugout after coach Laurent Blanc last week signed a one-year contract extension, keeping him at the club until 2016, but adjustments will have to be made elsewhere as PSG try to cope with the punishments coming their way for breaching UEFA's Financial Fair Play regulations.

Blanc insists that "Paris will have a great team" next season, but the restrictions on their spending - set to include the imposition of a salary cap, the holding back of prize money from UEFA and the obligation to sell players before they buy - will make life difficult.

There may not be a marquee signing this summer to match those of Edinson Cavani last year and Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva in 2012. Indeed, Cavani, who has voiced his discontent on more than one occasion this season, could perhaps even be one of those who leave.

"I think we will still be able to improve the team," says Blanc. "We need to target the right areas and I am convinced we will improve the squad. The club has considerable means but the solution, even without Financial Fair Play, is to improve in terms of quality."

PSG's situation at the top of the tree domestically is unlikely to be affected, but as Blanc himself has lamented, Ligue 1 doesn't matter to them anymore. The focus of their Qatari owners is on European glory, and even the fans had little appetite for celebration when PSG wrapped up the championship last midweek.

"I was expecting a different reaction from the supporters," noted Cavani after witnessing the vast majority of the Parc des Princes trudge away straight after the final whistle in last Wednesday's game against Rennes, which PSG admittedly lost.

Getting beyond the Champions League quarter-finals after two close calls is the next big challenge. Off the pitch PSG were set to break through. The Forbes list of the world's most valuable clubs has PSG in 15th place, while their budget for this season is around €480 million, up from €90 million just three years ago.

The latest Deloitte Football Money League had them in fifth place with income of €398.8 million (£341.8m). Only Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester United were ahead of them. But while PSG's revenue was made up by commercial income to the tune of more than 60 percent, the others do not tend to rely so heavily on that aspect.

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That is so significant because it is PSG's sponsorship deal with the Qatar Tourism Authority, which earns them €200 million a year, which is the focus of much of UEFA's scepticism. With that deal forcibly watered down, PSG will need to look elsewhere for revenue streams, but their 'brand' is not as developed as the more established names, so they find themselves lagging behind again.

There had been hope that UEFA would be lenient. After all, they recently agreed a deal worth €80m per year for French Champions League rights with beIN Sports, the TV network owned by Qatar. But it will now be up to Jean-Claude Blanc, the Harvard-educated general manager, to find ways for PSG to raise the money needed to make them a consistent continental force in the coming seasons.

By Andy Scott - on Twitter @andpscott

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