Pastore Messi PSG decade of signings collage
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From Pastore to Messi - signings that transformed PSG

Publish on 13/08/2021 at 13:08

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Lionel Messi’s arrival is the culmination of a decade of signings that have completely changed the face of Paris Saint-Germain since the Qatari takeover in 2011. Ligue1.com looks back at the superstar signings who have come in to help the transform the club in the last 10 years.

Javier Pastore - the first superstar

A decade ago Paris was swooning for another big-name Argentinian signing. Qatar Sports Investments took a controlling stake in the club in the summer of 2011 and laid down a marker with the recruitment of Pastore from Serie A side Palermo for a fee of €42 million, a new French record. Pastore, a lithe playmaker who liked to position himself off the central striker, was just 22 when he joined but was immediately described by sporting director Leonardo as “world class”.

He spent seven seasons at the Parc des Princes but his influence was at its peak in his first campaign, in 2011-12. That season he scored 13 Ligue 1 goals, and 16 in all competitions, but PSG only finished second behind champions Montpellier. His goals return shrunk to nine in the following season, although he remained a key player as Paris won the Ligue 1 title and reached the Champions League quarter-finals under Carlo Ancelotti.

Javier Pastore, Edinson Cavani, PSG

However, the arrival of Laurent Blanc as coach in 2013 and the addition of more and more superstar players saw the fragile Pastore - nicknamed ‘El Flaco’ (the skinny one) - become a peripheral figure. He left in 2018, returning to Italy to join Roma for a cut-price €24 million.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic - the legend

Zlatan was a blockbuster signing from AC Milan in the summer of 2012 and he was afforded a blockbuster unveiling under the Eiffel Tower. The Swedish striker was 30 when PSG paid €20 million to bring him to the Parc des Princes, heading up a close-season recruitment drive which also saw Thiago Silva, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Marco Verratti move from Italy to the French capital.

PSG were determined not to let the Ligue 1 title slip away again after Montpellier had beaten them to it, and they were also determined to make a splash in the Champions League as they returned to the competition after eight years away. ‘Ibra’ showed the way and proved his reported net annual salary of €14 million was worth it as he top-scored in his first Ligue 1 season, becoming the first player to score 30 goals in a campaign since Jean-Pierre Papin in 1990.

Zlatan stayed for just four seasons but won 11 trophies, including four Ligue 1 titles. He scored 156 goals for the club in 180 games, becoming PSG’s all-time top scorer until Edinson Cavani eventually surpassed him. “If they replace the Eiffel Tower with a statue of me, I will stay at PSG,” he said, with typical bombast, in 2016. But they didn’t, and he left, joining Manchester United with his place as a Paris legend assured.

David Beckham - buying the brand

PSG were becoming a global brand but it was the arrival of David Beckham at the Parc des Princes in January 2013 that really propelled the club into a different dimension. The England midfielder was already 37 when he penned a five-month deal as a PSG player in January 2013, returning to Europe and the Champions League after a stint in MLS with LA Galaxy.

“It’s a club that’s going to have a lot of success in the next 10, 15, 20 years,” said Beckham, who donated his PSG salary to a children’s charity and who helped massively increase PSG’s brand value while also boosting the profile of the French game as a whole.

That was more significant than his achivements on the field: He played just 14 times for Paris in the second half of the 2012/13 season and famously got sent off in a game against Evian-Thonon-Gaillard. However he helped them win their first Ligue 1 title in 19 years before bidding a tearful farewell when he came off in his last game against Brest at the Parc des Princes.

Di María - dreaming bigger

When Paris landed Ángel di María in August 2015, they were confident they had the man to take them the next step in the Champions League, a competition in which they had suffered three consecutive exits in the quarter-finals. The Argentine was 27 when he moved to the capital from Manchester United for a new French record fee of €63 million. He had endured a difficult year in England but before that had been one of Real Madrid’s most important players.

Di Maria

Di María was unveiled to media at the plush Shangri-La hotel, just across the Seine from the Eiffel Tower, as fans gathered outside to try to catch a glimpse of their new Argentine hero. Sound familiar? The wing wizard with a wonderful left foot has not been able to propel PSG to Champions League glory in the subsequent six seasons but he has arguably been the club’s most consistent player in that time: He has 88 goals and 110 assists in 264 matches and earlier this year signed a new contract to keep him at the club until the end of this season, by which time he will be 34.

Neymar and Kylian Mbappé - the world record deals

PSG definitively changed the face of the game when they splashed the two biggest transfer fees in history just a few weeks apart in August 2017 to sign first Neymar Jr. and then Kylian Mbappé. Neymar cost 222 million euros from Barcelona, Paris paying the buyout clause that Barcelona thought had been set prohibitively high enough to prevent anyone snatching the Brazilian forward. Mbappé followed for 180 million euros from Monaco, who he had just helped to win the Ligue 1 title at PSG’s expense.

Between them they have utterly dominated the limelight in the four years since, sharing the prize for France’s player of the year. Mbappé has been Ligue 1’s leading scorer in each of the last three seasons. Even when Neymar’s influence was reduced, like last season, he was still shortlisted for the player of the year prize. They have not succeeded, yet, in delivering the Champions League for PSG, coming closest in 2020 when they got to the final but lost to Bayern Munich in Lisbon. There is still time though - Neymar has extended his contract to 2025 and PSG are hoping Mbappé will extend his deal, which expires after this season. “Kylian is central to our project,” insisted president Nasser al-Khelaifi this week. “He has every reason to stay here.”

Lionel Messi - the greatest

And now PSG have Messi, arguably the greatest player of them all. The 34-year-old Argentinian genius will wear the number 30 at the Parc des Princes and PSG know that having the former Barcelona man means that now - to borrow their own motto - they can no longer dream any bigger. Messi’s arrival will see merchandise flying off the shelves the world over and the number of followers of the club explode on social media. Khelaifi is already talking about the need for a bigger stadium. And PSG look better placed than ever to win the Champions League, the prize they covet the most but which has so far escaped them.

>> CLUB PROFILE: Paris Saint-Germain