Paris Saint-Germain's dizzying outlay during the transfer window was dealt a dose of reality on Friday when UEFA opened a formal investigation into the Ligue 1 club as part of its monitoring of clubs under Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations.
PSG smashed the world transfer record by signing Brazil superstar Neymar from Barcelona for €222million at the start of last month, while the deadline day capture of Kylian Mbappe on an initial loan from Monaco will reportedly be made permanent for €180m at the end of this season.
In response to UEFA's statement, PSG expressed confidence over their ability to comply with the rules. But is their stance grounded in bravado or reality and what punishments could they face? Omnisport spoke to Dr Dan Plumley, a football finance expert at Sheffield Hallam University, to find out more.
UEFA PUBLICLY TARGETING PSG – WHY NOW?
At the end of July, ESPN reported Barcelona would make a complaint about PSG to UEFA over a possible FFP breach as the Neymar deal neared completion, but Plumley believes the Parisians' latest show of strength over Mbappe forced European football's governing body to go public.
"They would have had a look anyway on the back of the Neymar transfer," he said. "It's not any real surprise that they'll investigate and look into it.
"I think what's caused the announcement is the Mbappe deal. When you put it alongside the Neymar deal you've got in excess of €400m in transfer fees. We know Neymar is on a very good wage in the region of €600,000 per week. You would imagine Mbappe is on a similar deal, maybe not as high as Neymar, but there are wage expenses there as well.
"The timing of the announcement is linked to the deadline day deal more than anything."
ARE PSG RIGHT TO BE CONFIDENT?
PSG were quick to cut through any inference of wrongdoing and state "the operations carried out with FC Barcelona and … AS Monaco were in compliance" with FFP rules.
Players such as Blaise Matuidi and Serge Aurier were moved on during the transfer window and the club's Qatari owners are likely to pitch for new commercial deals in the Middle East and beyond, while slotting Neymar and Mbappe on to the wage bill might not be as problematic as it seems.
"If you look back through some of their key headline figures, they're in line on wage spending with other top clubs in Europe," Plumley said. "There are a couple of clubs in England who spend a lot more.
"Neymar and Mbappe will add to that but they've also had big earners go off their wage bill over recent years. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is one. When you look at this over a period of time, that's why they're confident they will comply."
WHAT ARE UEFA LOOKING FOR AND HOW MIGHT PSG BE PUNISHED?
Over the current three-year monitoring period, which runs until 2017-18, PSG must demonstrate an "acceptable loss" of €30m in total, meaning the structuring of payments for the Neymar and Mbappe deals is likely to be key.
PSG were punished under FFP in May 2014 when their sponsorship agreement with the Qatari Tourism Authority was deemed to have an unfair value by UEFA. They were fined €60m and placed under spending restrictions for the 2014-15 season, when their Champions League squad was limited to 21 players. Should they fall foul again, UEFA have more severe levers at their disposal.
"There can be anything ranging from a fine or transfer embargo right the way up to being kicked out of European competitions or title withdrawals," Plumley said. "There is a range of sanctions and that's what UEFA will be looking at if PSG don't comply as they say they will."
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE KO FOR NEYMAR AND MBAPPE?
So would UEFA really ban PSG and bar a number of football's leading global stars from its premier tournament? It is probably wise not to hold your breath.
on the Parc des Princes roof wearing PSG's third jerseySeptember 1, 2017
"Clubs and owners are aware UEFA want the major stars in their flagship competition and that's where they push the boundaries a bit more," Plumley said. "The cynic in me suggests UEFA would not ban them from the Champions League. UEFA rely on that competition to drive their income through revenue and sponsorship money.
"Maybe we'd be looking at a fine again, perhaps heavier than was the case previously. But when you've got those kind of owners and investors the cynical view is that it doesn't matter how much you fine them."
WILL THE UEFA INVESTIGATION CHECK TRANSFER SPENDING?
European football did not need Neymar to make the recent window one where spending spiralled. The Premier League alone spent £1.4billion, a 23 per cent rise on the previous year, while AC Milan's acquisition of 11 new senior players was headlined by their swoop for Juventus and Italy kingpin Leonardo Bonucci.
Even with UEFA seemingly on the warpath over PSG, Plumley does not expect long-established trends to alter.
"If you go back to when the European summer transfer window was introduced, it's been an upward trend and every year we've broken the record," he said. "So long as the broadcast figures are high there's no evidence to suggest that this will slow down. It will probably stay where it is, if not jump a little bit more next year.
"You can almost take the Neymar deal out of the equation and class that as an anomaly. Where we've seen some of the inflation is in the middle range of the market, with the value of good or very good but not world-class players being £50-60m, whereas a couple of years ago you were looking at £35-40m."
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