Pitchside Europe

Malaga and PSG race UEFA’s ticking clock

Pitchside Europe

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UEFA may have decided that the days of football clubs buying success are coming to an end, but you would be forgiven for thinking that nobody had told Malaga or Paris Saint-Germain.

Backed by their respective Qatari owners - Sheikh Abdullah Al Thani at Malaga, Qatar Sports Investments at PSG - both clubs have been making serious waves in the transfer market this summer. The Spanish side have shelled out over 55 million euros on nine new players, while PSG are poised to take their outlay towards the 100 million euro mark with the capture of Javier Pastore. If it feels like they're spending money like it's going out of fashion, it's because they are. Apart from the two Manchester clubs, no other teams in Europe have spent as much money in transfer fees this summer.

One of the primary reasons for that is the imminent introduction of UEFA's Financial Fair Play rules, which the organisation says will curb the "excessive spending and inflated transfer fees and player salaries that have endangered football in recent years". Clubs who do not break even will face bans from European competition from the 2013-14 season onwards, but the first accounting period to be taken into consideration by UEFA's Club Financial Control Panel will be the 2011-12 season.

Malaga and PSG therefore find themselves, alongside Manchester City, in the end game of European football's great spending boom. Like City, years of under-achievement have left them trailing their domestic rivals but they have only a narrow window within which to improve their squads before UEFA's bean-counters close the book for good on what Arsene Wenger has branded "financial doping".

Given that slender timeframe, it is unsurprising that both sides are trying to acquire new players at such a rapid rate. Traditional wisdom may hold that successful teams need time to gel, but recent studies have highlighted the startling positive correlation between expenditure and on-pitch success. If City needed just over two and a half years to gate-crash the Champions League and end a 35-year trophy drought, why should Malaga and PSG take their time?

One downside to such lavish expenditure is the pressure for immediate success it engenders. No one seriously expects Malaga to pip Barcelona or Real Madrid to the La Liga title next May, but players such as new signings Jeremy Toulalan, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Santi Cazorla are of Champions League calibre and their fans will harbour hopes of a top-four place.

PSG, meanwhile, only finished four points outside the Champions League places last season and their continued insistence that a top-three finish remains their objective is beginning to wear thin. "Their whole 'You know, we're only playing for third place' thing - it's okay, we know. They don't have to hide it," said Steve Mandanda, goalkeeper of arch-rivals Marseille. Like it or not, PSG have become Ligue 1's team to beat.

The hope, for both teams, is that by the time the Financial Fair Play rules start to bite, they will have established themselves as Champions League regulars and balanced their books thanks to the increased revenue that participation in Europe's top club competition inevitably brings. It is a gamble, and an expensive one. It remains to be seen exactly how UEFA's rules will impact on the European game, but what is certain is that no team will be able to endlessly pump money into player recruitment unless they are generating funds through on-pitch success.

It means Malaga and PSG stand to lose an awful lot if their investment does not translate into regular European football but, by the same token, if things go to plan they could be the last two clubs to muscle in on the Champions League cash cow via the largesse of a mega-rich benefactor. The potential rewards are mouth-watering. But the clock is ticking.

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