Back where they belong: Paris Saint-Germain to reprise their George Weah-led Golden Age

Carlo Ancelotti leads the capital side into the Champions League, with the club set to surpass their glory days of the 1990s
By Robin Bairner | French Football Writer

Paris Saint-Germain may be a relatively new club, having been formed in 1970, but over the course of a history that has spanned just over 40 years, the outfit from the French capital have known some tremendous highs and just as many lows.

The takeover and subsequent investment from Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) last summer represented a bright new dawn for the Parc des Princes side, who are preparing themselves for a match against Dynamo Kiev that represents their first Champions League match in seven years having benefited immensely from the ambition of their owners.

To be bracketed along with the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City, the Premier League giants who have risen to become established members of Europe’s elite off the back of terrific investment, is unfair on PSG. Although they have only reached their present peak because of similar injections of money, les Parisiens were once a European superpower in their own right.

Back in the mid-1990s, Uefa’s coefficient ranking had PSG firmly at the summit. Cup Winners’ Cup success in 1996 represented a particular pinnacle for the French titans, who also reached the semi-finals of the Champions League and Uefa Cup, boasting players such as Youri Djorkaeff, Rai, David Ginola and George Weah. This would become known as the club's Golden Age.

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Ronaldinho would also make his first steps in the European game in Paris, where he remains a cult hero with the support because of his dazzling footwork and match-winning quality, while the likes of Nicolas Anelka, Jay-Jay Okocha and Mikael Arteta have worn the famous jersey of the capital side.

These figures, however, turned out for the club when it was in a slow state of decline. This reached its nadir in 2007-08, when Paul Le Guen’s side needed a last-day victory away against Sochaux to avoid an embarrassing relegation to Ligue 2.

"QIA’s plan is focused on the long term, and though wildly ambitious, they will not expect immediate success at Europe’s top table"
When QIA captured the club in the summer of 2011, its trajectory was heading slowly upwards. PSG had responded to their near-drop experience impressively, reaching the quarter-finals of the Uefa Cup and becoming established once more as a meaningful domestic force under the stewardship of Antoine Kombouare, who was only wrestled from his post by the new owners’ desire to install Carlo Ancelotti as coach.

What PSG was lacking, though, was organised leadership, a united focus and the kind of vast wealth now required for a club to establish itself permanently at the top of the game. Previous owners Colony Capital had promised to make les Rouge-et-Bleu a force domestically, but progress was slow until QIA swept in backed by erstwhile President of the Republic Nicolas Sarkozy, himself a PSG fan, in 2010.

Immediately the capital side went about making their mark on the game, capturing Javier Pastore for €42 million and thereby raising their profile dramatically. Although they missed out on the Ligue 1 title to relative minnows Montpellier, PSG have gone from strength to strength, signing world-established stars such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva, propelling them up another level.

QIA’s plan is focused on the long term, and though wildly ambitious, they will not expect immediate success at Europe’s top table. What is expected, though, is a competitive display of just how far PSG have gone as a club in such a short time, and how far they can go in the coming years.

Dynamo Kiev at Parc des Princes represents only the amuse-bouche of what is to come for PSG fans.

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