Can PSG match Real Madrid's financial power? The gap is closing
MADRID, Spain -- Ahead of his side's visit to Real Madrid for Wednesday's Champions League round of 16 first leg, Paris Saint-Germain coach Unai Emery pointed out that his club are leading a "new order" which threatens the position of the previous aristocracy.
"I've often heard [Madrid president] Florentino Perez say that to be the best team in the world you must sign the best player in the world," Emery told Marca. "And [PSG] president [Nasser] Al-Khelaifi has brought one of the best three -- Neymar. It is the new order in Europe, [other] clubs see their reign in danger. It is good for football that there are new teams, Manchester City too. We should all appreciate it."
With the help of data from KPMG's Football Benchmark Group, here is how PSG match up financially with the power of Real Madrid as they seek to become one of the best teams in Europe.
The clubs once inhabited different worlds
Emery was not wrong about Perez's team building policy. On his return to the Madrid presidency in 2009, the construction magnate immediately completed the signing of Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United in a world record €94 million deal, amid a net €153m that summer.
That same transfer window saw PSG buy Turkish striker Mevlut Erdinc from Sochaux for €8.5m, for a €9.2m total net spend.
It was clear that the two clubs were then living in separate financial universes. The following year PSG's net outlay was just €2m, while Jose Mourinho's first season at the Bernabeu (2010-11) brought an €82.5m investment.
On the pitch the difference was stark too -- Madrid reached the 2010-11 Champions League semifinals (losing to eventual winners Barcelona), while PSG were knocked out in the Europa League round of 16 by Benfica.
Then a new dawn arrived...
But then Al-Khelaifi's Qatar Sports Investments (QSI) arrived at the Parc des Princes in 2011 and things immediately changed. The club's previous transfer record (€12.4m on Jay Jay Okocha in 1998) was shattered with the €42m arrival of Javier Pastore, amid a net spend of €98m.
Mourinho's biggest purchase that summer was defender Fabio Coentrao for €30m.
And the spending gap closed
Every year since then PSG have spent bigger than Madrid.
Perez kept buying Galacticos for a while (Gareth Bale €101m; James Rodriguez €80), but always balanced the books by selling other big name players such as Mesut Ozil (€50m), Gonzalo Higuain (€40m) and Angel Di Maria (€80m).
Meanwhile PSG kept spending and spending, bringing in Thiago Silva (€42m), Edinson Cavani (€65m), all the way up to their taking the world record by signing long time Perez target Neymar for €222m from Barcelona last summer.
Over the last six seasons, Madrid's total net spend is just €119.5m, while PSG's is €715m -- not including the €180m promised to Monaco for Kylian Mbappe next summer when his year-long loan ends.
The biggest fee Perez authorised in the last seven transfer windows was €31m on Danilo -- money then recouped when the Brazil right-back was sold to Manchester City last year.
Ultimately while PSG had to invest hugely to break into the top tier of European clubs, Madrid could remain competitive by tweaking here and there.
"PSG had a different starting point to Real Madrid," KPMG's Global Head of Sports Andrea Sartori told ESPN FC. "The French side had to build up an elite team from scratch, which implied significant spending. Madrid had a strong, established team that only needed minor modifications to remain competitive."
But it's about more than transfers though...
Back in 2011-12, PSG's annual revenue was €225m -- just under half of Madrid's €512m that season. The French side's wage bill of €130m was also much smaller than the Spaniards' €234m.
In the six years since, Madrid's revenues have grown steadily to €671m in 2016-17. Meanwhile PSG's income increase has been dramatic.
In QSI's second season, it almost doubled to €400m -- including sponsorship deals questioned by UEFA's Financial Fair Play authorities -- and further progress saw their total income peak at €527m before dropping to €486m last year.
The broadcasting revenues received by both teams remained stable -- with Madrid retaining a big advantage of €250m to PSG's €123m in KPMG's most recent figures.
Madrid still generate around €200m more in income each year -- more or less the same gap as on QSI's arrival in Paris.
And how about wages?
Where PSG did advance very quickly was in staff costs (i.e. player salaries). The difference in 2011 was €234m for Real and €130m for PSG, but within 12 months PSG had almost caught up (€240m vs. €236m) and the tallies have remained very close ever since.
PSG have not yet made public their wages for last season but Sporting Intelligence data has their players now receiving a higher average salary than Madrid's -- where the total outlay for 2016-17 was €406m.
So who wins?
Emery's claim that PSG can now compete for the very best players in terms of transfer fees and wages is demonstrably true, but the figures show that Madrid still win in all the different income streams measured by KPMG. And that doesn't look like changing.
"PSG's positioning as a global brand has helped the club shorten the financial gap with other European powerhouses," Sartori said. "[But] the expected growth of La Liga's broadcasting revenue, and the exploitation of a significantly larger and privately-owned stadium are, among other factors, likely to maintain Madrid ahead of the Parisians in the mid-term."
Putting aside continuing concerns over FFP, PSG have made remarkable progress financially over the last few years. Whether their expensively assembled and handsomely paid team can take advantage of Real Madrid's poor form and progress in the Champions League remains to be seen, but for now it's Madrid who still reign supreme off the pitch.
Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan