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PSG’s ‘weakness’, Bayern Munich’s strength?

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In an era of mega-spending and €200m transfers, are Bayern Munich really showing the way?

Real Madrid v Paris Saint-Germain - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: First Leg Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

The topic of “mega-transfers” has once again come to the fore as PSG failed to defeat Real Madrid in the first round of the Champions League knockout stage.

In a recent article for Abendzeitung München, Patrick Mayer argues that “PSG’s weakness demonstrates Bayern’s strength,” noting that the Parisian club, which invests large sums every year, is now threatened with a 6th early elimination in a row.

Mayer contends that “for years, Paris Saint-Germain, funded by Qatar Sports Investments, has tried to impose its own laws on the Champions League and international football.” To that end, the French club spent €222m to sign Neymar from Barcelona and a rumored €180m to sign Kylian Mbappé from Monaco last summer. Despite millions in expenditure, though, PSG face the prospect of yet another Champions League with nothing to show. The club still has never advanced beyond the quarterfinals.

PSG in context

There is constant debate about why Bayern Munich reject the market competition and, to a large extent, its new laws. We must remember that the Bavarians have reached at least the Champions League semifinals five times in the past six seasons, winning in 2012-13.

Borussia Dortmund v FC Bayern Muenchen - UEFA Champions League Final Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images

However, it is premature to validate the policy adopted by the Bavarians based solely on the French club’s expenditure: although PSG have a tall task before them, 90 minutes remain to be played in Paris, and there is no doubt about the quality of their squad. Their round-of-16 tie versus Real Madrid is still wide open.

Focusing such a broad debate on PSG and their possible failure against Real Madrid therefore seems like an oversimplification. The Parisian team won their group but were unlucky to draw Real Madrid as early as the Round of 16 (the Spanish club finished runners-up in their group). By comparison, in the last six years, Bayern have met Real Madrid three times in the knockout stages, but beat the Spanish side only in 2012.

The investments made by PSG have been monumental, but they are not the only factors that define the new market. Real Madrid, Barcelona, ​​and top EPL clubs such as Manchester City, among others, have also gradually set new financial parameters. Spanish clubs have been more successful than Bayern in European competition during this same period.

Bayern Munich’s way not above reproach

The current record transfer for Bayern Munich is Corentin Tolisso, signed from Lyon in the summer for €41.5m. The attitude of the Munich management, rejecting these new market “laws,” has certainly led to some missed opportunities. The new laws apply not only to transfer fees, but also to the player wages (often a more sensitive issue).

Bayern may consider itself unable to compete due to its values—values flouted by clubs like PSG. However, the Kevin De Bruyne deal in 2015 is one example that may make one think differently. De Bruyne had reached a personal agreement with Bayern, but the deal collapsed on the rumored asking price of €80m.

A more balanced view might have persuaded one of the best players in Europe to play for Bayern, rather than ply his trade for Manchester City. Jupp Heynckes himself does not hide his immense admiration for the Belgian midfielder:

I would give the shirt off my back for De Bruyne. You must have a player like him in his position. He is far and away the best player in Europe at the moment.

As in De Bruyne’s case, there are undoubtedly other missed opportunities. Hence praising Bayern’s frugality as the polar opposite of PSG’s extravagances—as Mayer in his Abendzeitung editorial does—is not entirely as clear-cut as some would believe. The issue is far too complex to be represented in black and white, let alone the color of money.