Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP)
He may be one of the most angry clubs in his country, but this time the German Leipzig limits itself to the least “evil” party compared to its opponents Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain in the first group that was ranked in the group of death for this season in the Champions League football competition.
After they faced each other in the semi-finals of last season when City beat Saint-Germain back and forth and reached the final for the first time in its history before losing to fellow country Chelsea, the date between the two Gulf-owned clubs is renewed, but this time in the group stage.
City begins its journey towards realizing the dream of its Emirati owners to win the title of the continental competition for the first time in its history on Wednesday at home, when the team of Spanish coach Pep Guardiola faces his guest Leipzig in an unequal confrontation, at least on paper.
As a result of the repercussions of the decline in revenues due to the Corona virus pandemic, which caused the absence of the public from the stadiums for more than a year, and the failure of the European Super League project, Abu Dhabi government-owned City and Qatar-backed Saint-Germain were the biggest winners.
And because they were not affected by the loss of match ticket revenues and the result of the European Confederation (Wifa)’s decision to ease the strictness in the application of financial fair play regulations, City and Saint-Germain imposed themselves as the new strong duo of European football, which angered many traditional powers in the old continent.
Saint Germain reunited between Argentine Lionel Messi and his former Barcelona colleague, the Brazilian star Neymar, and withstood Real Madrid’s desire to include his star Killian Mbappe even after the royal club made an offer worth 180 million euros, in a very bold move from the management of the capital club. The French, especially since the contract of the 2018 World Cup champion expires next summer, which will allow him to leave for free.
The French capital club also strengthened its ranks in free deals with the Italian goalkeeper, this summer’s European Cup winner Gianluigi Donnarumma, the Dutchman Georginio Wijnaldum and Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos, while paying 60 million euros to join Moroccan Ashraf Hakimi.
– Danger to the environment –
After regaining the Premier League title and reaching the Champions League final for the first time, City did not need to make many adjustments to their squad, making a single contract, but he broke the record for the largest deal in Premier League history with the signing of Jack Grealish from Aston Villa for 138 million dollars.
In a statement last week, La Liga president Javier Tebas said that “clubs supported by countries are as dangerous to the football environment as the European Super League.”
Tebas’ position is consistent with what the Italian newspaper “Corriere dello Sport” came out with after Saint-Germain signed Messi, when it asked, “When will FIFA and UEFA decide to organize the issue of whether the state can own a football club?”
After Messi lost to Saint-Germain, the Spanish newspaper “El Mundo” used Barcelona’s slogan, “Miss K On Club”, that is, more than one club, to criticize the Parisian club and its Qatari owners by saying, “PSG is more than a club: the sports arm of Qatar.”
– ‘Purely a marketing project’ –
Backed by energy drink giant Red Bull, Leipzig is another example of the new money upsetting Germany’s traditional footballing powers.
But unlike City and Saint-Germain, Leipzig has not yet won any major title in its short history and has not risen competitively to the level of traditional big clubs such as Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, but this did not reduce the hatred against him by the fans of the rival teams because of the way in which he circumvented The so-called “1+50” rule is in place to prevent any individual from owning a controlling interest in the club.
Red Bull, founded by Austrian billionaire Dietrich Mateschitz, owns 49 percent of the club’s shares, while the company’s employees own the remaining 51 percent.
After Leipzig reached the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2020, the football magazine “11 Freund” considered that “Red Bull Leipzig is a purely marketing project. It was created only to promote the Red Bull brand.”
However, the investments made by the giant Austrian company did not bear the same fruits that were reaped by the Emirati and Qatari investments in City and Saint Germain since the ownership of the two clubs was transferred to them in 2008 and 2011, respectively.
The reason is that the model is completely different between City and Saint-Germain on the one hand and Leipzig on the other.
– Losing a coach and two stars –
Instead of battling Bayern Munich, which dominated the German league in the past nine seasons, Leipzig lost coach Julian Nagelsmann to the Bavarian giants, who also extracted the services of two very influential players, the French Daewoo Obamecano and the Austrian Marcel Sabitzer.
Unlike City and Saint-Germain, who are always looking for the best stars in the game in order to strengthen their sporting and marketing position, Leipzig used the two clubs owned by Red Bull, Austria’s Salzburg and New York, to recruit, develop and sell their best talent.
Five years ago, the former sporting director of the German club, Ralf Rangnick, considered that the possibility of contracting players such as Messi and his Portuguese rival, Cristiano Ronaldo, was not possible.
“It would be ridiculous to think that we could work with them here. They are both very old and very expensive,” he said at the time.
Despite the huge technical differences, Leipzig beat Saint-Germain in the group stage last season on its way to reach the price of the final at the expense of Manchester United.
But expectations about the surprise of one of the two teams of the group, candidates to go to the end, seem very limited this time, before the trip on Wednesday to “Al Ittihad Stadium” to face City and its stars.
Under the leadership of new American coach Jesse Marsh, the runner-up in the German league lost three of his first four matches in the “Bundesliga” this season, the last of which was a humiliating result against Bayern Munich 1-4 last weekend.
“Maybe we are not ready for such big challenges. But even so, we have to stay strong and believe in the process (evolution),” Marsh seemed realistic in his comment on Wednesday’s match against City.
Saint-Germain is expected to make a successful start on Wednesday when it visits Belgium’s Club Brugge in the other match in this group.
© 2021 AFP
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