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PSG Finally Make The Biggest Stage

  • 3 min read

The Champions League final between Bayern Munich and Paris St Germain on Sunday is a clash of two of the modern giants of the European game but in terms of footballing history, it is the French club who are the relative newcomers.

For not only will this be PSG’s first final in the competition, it comes 11 days after they celebrated only their 50th anniversary as a club.

To give some perspective, Bayern are 120 years old while last year’s winners Liverpool were formed in 1892.

Indeed, when Bayern won the first of their five European Cup titles in 1973, PSG were just three years old and playing in the French third division.

While French football has a long and rich history, the capital city was noticeably absent from the elite with Parisians showing little interest in the game as provincial clubs like St Etienne and Reims enjoyed continental success.

Those in the capital who followed the game made the most of brief moments of promise for the small, older traditional clubs, Red Star and Racing Club, until the creation of PSG.

The merger of the new Paris Football Club and Stade Saint-Germanois in 1970 created a team for the changing population of the capital. A French Cup win came in 1982 and four years later, they won their first league title.

With backing from television company Canal Plus, the club attracted top talent such as winger David Ginola and Liberian striker George Weah.

By 1996, the club had made its mark on the international stage with a team featuring Brazil midfielder Rai and France international Youri Djorkaeff helping them win the European Cup Winners’ Cup with a 1-0 victory over Rapid Vienna.

PSG started being able to attract big names, with Ronaldinho joining in 2001, but the key moment of change came 10 years later when Qatar Sports Investment took control of the club

The Qataris began a huge investment in talent and top managers as they sought to create a ‘superclub’ to match global brands such as Barcelona and Real Madrid.

David Beckham ended his career at PSG while Zlatan Ibrahimovic brought his huge personality to Paris and, domestically, the club have dominated the French league, winning seven of the last eight championships.

Success in Europe has been harder to find however. For all the money spent, including a world record 222 million euros for Brazilian Neymar, PSG failed to get beyond the quarter-finals stage in the Champions League.

Until this year.

Wins over Italy’s Atalanta and Germany’s RB Leipzig have propelled Thomas Tuchel’s side, powered by local hero Kylian Mbappe, to a place in club football’s biggest game.

Luis Fernandez, who played for the club in the 1970s and ‘80s and was manager of the team which won the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1996, appreciates the sense of history.

“Generations follow one another, but you can feel that those who have lived our adventure know it and have loved it,” he said.

“I also remember playing in the Champions League. It’s a always a beautiful night of football, it’s a different approach. Every year there are expectations. We opened the way with the Cup Winners’ Cup.”