Real Madrid and PSG will lock horns for Neymar. The LaLiga champions want to launch a new sporting project over the summer with Neymar as the flagship signing. Yet he is under contract at PSG until 2022 and does not have a buy-out clause in his contract. “He 2000% won’t leave next summer,” assured Nasser Al Khelaifi recently. This is the most recent episode in a series of transfer market battles between Madrid and PSG. Five others stand out:
Cristiano Ronaldo: “I’m upset and the president knows why”
This was the first clash between the two clubs after PSG were taken over by the Emir of Qatar – Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani (Al Khelaifi is the president, and head of Qatar Sports Investment). At the end of August 2012 Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice in a LaLiga match against Granada. He did not celebrate the goals. In the mixed zone after full-time, he dropped the bomb: “I’m upset and the president knows why”. Minutes later, news filtered out that the Portugal international had requested a transfer to PSG, who would offer him a wage packet to rival Lionel Messi.
Florentino Pérez closed the door on the move, and immediately set to work on a contract extension for Ronaldo. The following season, he signed on the dotted line. Al Khelaifi did not achieve his transfer target. But he did make Real Madrid feel the pressure from France, and that pressure has grown year-on-year.
Seven million for Carlo Ancelotti
Jose Mourinho left Madrid after a dry 2012-13 season, in which he only won the Spanish Super Cup. Florentino launched a new era with the signings of Carvajal, Bale, Isco, and Illaramendi. He wanted Carlo Ancelotti to lead them. Indeed, he had wanted Ancelotti previously. But the Italian was in jobs with AC Milan and Chelsea. The time wasn’t right.
PSG did not make it easy for Madrid to sign their coach. He still had a year to run on his contract, and PSG were reluctant to let him go straight after winning Ligue 1. PSG finally acquiesced, as Ancelotti had already agreed terms with Madrid and was keen to swap France for Spain.
Florentino paid €7 million to acquire the services of the coach who would go on to lead Madrid to La Décima.
Marco Verratti: Madrid's first disappointment
Madrid tried to sign Marco Verratti along with Ancelotti. The Italian midfielder was beginning to shine for PSG and his national team. He was a key player as the Italy Under-21s reached the final of the 2013 European Championship, only to fall to defeat against a Spain side boasting Isco, Morata, and Illarramendi.
“I’ve read a load of reports in the newspapers and I’m very pleased that he [Verratti] is being courted by big clubs like Real Madrid,” said Donato Di Campli, his agent at the time.
PSG reacted quickly. They immediately extended Verratti’s contract until June 2018 and gave him a significant wage increase. It was the first time that PSG flexed their financial muscles at the expense of another big European club. That same agent – Di Campli – recently stated that “nobody is going to move Neymar from PSG. They’re stuck in a prison of gold.”
Ángel Di María: PSG’s target slips away
The following summer, in 2014, it was PSG who knocked on Real Madrid’s door asking for Ángel Di María. The Argentine had just been named the man of the match in the Champions League final, and had been an important member of the Argentina team that made the final of the World Cup.
He wanted to leave Madrid for two reasons: He saw that Gareth Bale was going to take his place in the team; and above all, because he went upstairs at the Bernabéu and asked for a wage increase to €8m per year (he earned €4m at the time). Madrid offered him €6m. It was not enough.
Jorge Mendes - his representative in Europe – began to work on a move to PSG. But the Parisian club had to be careful with Financial Fair Play regulations and could not afford the €75 million that Madrid demanded. PSG unsuccessfully proposed a loan deal with an obligation to buy the following year, and Di María moved to Manchester United.
Kylian Mbappé chooses PSG over Madrid
The final episode came last summer. Kylian Mbappé had raised eyebrows across Europe with his riproaring end to the season at Monaco, and all of the big clubs were jostling for his signature. Madrid were the first club to make contact, and they thought Mbappé would opt for them, given that he was a childhood Madrid fan and Cristiano Ronaldo was his idol. The player’s father, concerned about whether his son would break in to the team ahead of the bbC, applied the brakes. Mbappé would only consider Madrid if one of Bale, Benzema, or Ronaldo left.
Mbappé also asked for €12m per year, far more than the €7m that Florentino believed he could spend without upsetting the equilibrium in the dressing room. In the end, Mbappé returned to Paris, his home city. PSG jumped through the FFP hoops by signing him on loan from Monaco with an obligation to buy for €180m. Madrid preferred not to play with such vast figures for an 18-year-old. Time will tell whether that was the correct decision.