Spending years in the shadow of their Qatari-funded big sister Paris Saint-Germain, the capital’s second largest team Paris FC has languished in the lower echelons of French football for decades.
Things could have been very different when the two clubs split in early 1970s but with the chance of promotion beckoning, could Paris FC be about to get the shot at the big time they feel they deserve?
In July 2017, Paris FC found themselves in a lucky situation. Bastia, marred by financial irregularities, were demoted to France’s fourth tier, leaving the capital city-based club, placed in third, to fill their promotion spot.
During the same summer, a Paris Saint-Germain squad, featuring Angel Di Maria, Marco Verratti and Edinson Cavani, lost out in the battle for the Ligue 1 title to a breakout Monaco side. Despite still being a league away, this surely got the cogs turning and the fantasies forming in the heads of hopeful Paris FC supporters.
What would the atmosphere be like at a PSG-Paris FC league game? Would they become rivals or would no-one bat an eyelid? With Paris FC pushing for the Ligue 2 play-off places, maybe this fantasy could become a reality and we can find out for real.
In the run-up to the end of the season, Paris FC, led by coach Fabien Mercadal, face a mixed bag of lower-table strugglers and fellow promotion pushers. The side face Chateauroux, who are one place ahead of them in the race at the time of writing.
Later, they line up against Clermont Foot, who currently sit in the last play-off place, in a tie which could seal Paris’ fortunes. PFC went 12 games unbeaten between October 2017 and January 2018 and, if they regain their form, could be serious contenders during the play-offs.
Captain Herve Lybohy has shown brilliant leadership skills and a generally successful defensive output. Nevertheless, the veteran Ivorian has picked up three red cards this campaign – not good for his status as a role model or captain.
The club’s top scorer this season is Malik Tchokounte with 11 strikes in 31 appearances and PFC also boast 22-year-old starlet Dylan Saint-Louis, a Norwich City-linked forward and part of the Congo team and netted during the side’s 4-0 away win over Quevilly on 20th April. However, Paris FC’s squad is aging rapidly and will need summer reinforcements regardless of whether they achieve promotion to Ligue 1.
If you look at Paris FC’s history, things could have played out very differently. Formed in 1969, the club merged with second-tier outfit Stade Saint-Germain to form Paris Saint-Germain.
The clubs parted company in 1971 with Paris Saint-Germain bearing the brunt of the split, plummeting to third-tier obscurity whilst Paris FC retained professional status and continued to play at the Parc des Princes stadium. It looked very much like Paris FC were destined to spend decades at the top of French football whilst the future looked bleak for Saint-Germain.
Surprisingly, the tables turned. Paris FC were hit with financial instability, forcing them to find another club to merge with, whilst Paris Saint-Germain achieved back-to-back promotions, lightning quick in their fight to return to the top tier.
Ever since the drop from the top, Paris FC have yo-yoed between the nation’s third and fifth divisions, occasionally finding themselves as high as Ligue 2. But, until this season, there has been no considerable fight for them to regain Ligue 1 status.
After over a decade of hovering in and around the top six in Ligue 1, Paris Saint-Germain were taken over by a billionaire Qatari investment company in 2011. Five titles and one Neymar later, PSG are one of the richest teams in the world.
So, what would things look like if Paris FC managed to achieve promotion to Ligue 1? Would they form a rivalry with PSG? One thing is for certain. As I mentioned earlier, the club will almost need a complete squad overhaul and considerable financial backing. All too often, we see newly-promoted clubs failing to land the players who can keep them in the top flight and they drop a division the following season.
Until recently, Sulaiman Al-Fahim, a spokesperson for Sheikh Mansour who bought Manchester City in 2008, was a shareholder in the club but left after apparent disagreements with fellow part owners. It will take a long time for PFC to reach the heights of PSG.
A key to long term success as a football club is often building a strong youth set-up. Legendary French manager Christian Gourcuff is currently without a club and the ex-Lorient and Rennes coach has a reputation for unearthing talented youngsters, so would be a fair suggestion.
Gourcuff has supervised the developments of Andre-Pierre Gignac, Laurent Koscielny, Kevin Gameiro and Raphael Guerreiro amongst others. His attacking philosophy would be invigorating to watch but he may have to shed some older players in order to add speed and agility to the squad.
The likes of Julien Lopez, Souleymane Karamoko and Thomas Delaine provide speed to their game to a degree but top level experience usually proves key to retaining top-tier status the season after promotion.
Ligue 2 is currently a hotbed of young attacking talent. Highly-regarded Turkish striker Umut Bozok, 21, is topping the scoring charts for Nimes, having scored 18 times in France’s third tier last season too.
American-born Reims attacker Theoson Siebatcheu has scored 14 and assisted seven in 29 league appearances this season, whilst Le Havre’s Lyon loanee Jean Philippe Mateta has hit the back of the net on eleven occasions.
Paris FC’s current league may not be the worst place to search for talent should the club get promoted.
Le Havre are renowned for their academy system, bringing through top talent such as Paul Pogba, Dimitri Payet, Riyad Mahrez and Benjamin Mendy to name just a few and French clubs in general are admired for their player development. Crystal Palace’s Mamadou Sakho and Angers striker Karl Toko Ekambi actually came from Paris’ youth set-up itself.
It’s all well and good speculating though. Paris FC have an arduous task on their hands. Their trouncing of Quevilly on Friday 20th April will give them a huge confidence boost ahead of the final run-in.
It will be difficult to achieve but Mercadal’s squad have come this far so they may as well give it all they have. It may all come down to their final game against Clermont Foot.
They do say “what comes around goes around”, so, will we be seeing another switch in fortunes in the coming years for Paris’ clubs? With the mad state of football at current, who would be too surprised?