The billionaire owner that has turned PSG into a leading contender for this year’s Champions League said the atmosphere at Parkhead is the best his has ever experienced. Qatari businessman Nasser Al-Khelaifi was in the stands on Tuesday to watch the side his nation has bankrolled in action. PSG’s expensively assembled hordes destroyed Celtic in a thoroughly one-sided performance, but what impressed Al-Khelaifi the most was the noise inside the stadium.
It begs the question: why can’t the Bhoys get a billionaire owner and compete with Europe’s elite clubs in the Champions League?
The gulf in class between the two sides was stark as Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani dismantled Celtic en route to a thumping 5-0 victory. Brendan Rodgers accused his charges of playing like an under-12 team, and they did seem in awe of the illustrious opposition, but the brutal truth is that PSG are simply a brilliant side and Celtic are not. PSG are entitled to be brilliant as the Qataris have handed over hundreds of millions of pounds in a bid to see their team compete with the very best teams in Europe: Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Juventus and maybe some of the EPL clubs.
After they spent £200 million to sign Neymar, more than doubling the existing world record fee, a glum Arsene Wenger said: “Once a country owns a club, everything is possible.” The oil-rich nation of Qatar has turned PSG into real contenders. If you are a fan of sports betting, you can check a review of betting websites to find a top bookmaker, and you will find that PSG are now the second favourites to win the Champions League at 5/1 or 11/2. Celtic, meanwhile, are all the way at 1,000/1, with only Qarabag, APOEL Nicosia and Maribor given less chance of winning the competition.
The gulf in class looks only set to widen as PSG’s owners make a mockery of financial fair play laws. They are able to use the country’s airlines and tourism boards to sponsor the club and circumvent the rules, and they will blow another huge wad of cash when Mbappe becomes a permanent signing next summer. All the while Celtic are getting further away from Europe’s elite and there are a few obvious reasons.
The Scottish Premiership is not a glamorous league and billionaires are not exactly queuing up to invest. They want away trips to Monaco and Lyon, not Partick Thistle and Kilmarnock. They do not want to freeze on the sidelines in Dundee when they could be sipping Barolo at the San Siro. Or they want to invest in the EPL, the most popular league in the world, beamed to every corner of the Earth.
The SPL just does not have the requisite pull. It is not long ago that Celtic and Rangers (IL) were in the same bracket as the best EPL clubs. They could recruit genuine stars from south of the border and illustrious names from across Europe. But the TV revenue the English clubs receive has changed everything. As recently as 2008, Celtic were the 20th most valuable club in world football, behind only five EPL clubs. Now they just about scrape into the top 60, while the EPL has eight representatives in the top 20 and English clubs continue to pull away.
Celtic’s record transfer spend remains the £6 million they spent on Chris Sutton in 2001. All the newly promoted EPL teams this season smashed that. Huddersfield spent £11.7 million on Steve Mounie and something is seriously wrong when a club like Celtic is being outspent by Huddersfield.
If the Bhoys were playing in the EPL, not only would they have all that TV revenue, the billionaires would be queuing up. “I think that was the best atmosphere I have ever experienced in my life,” said Al-Khelaifi. “Celtic’s supporters were really wonderful. It’s true that Celtic weren’t great on the pitch, but this is a club with a great history.”
Heritage, status, a marvellous fan base and a tremendous stadium with a buzzing atmosphere – Celtic have the lot. They will only get left further behind by clubs in the EPL, La Liga, Serie A, the Bundesliga and Serie A though. It’s an argument that has been made a billion times, but they need to be playing in the EPL. Swansea are, and they will soon be vastly richer than Celtic. It would be worth the Bhoys entering the lowest echelons of English football and working their way up, so that in eight years or so they could be playing in the EPL. The alternative is just to saunter to another eight SPL titles and keep getting annihilated by teams like PSG.