After signing Neymar in 2017, Paris Saint-Germain’s ownership, Qatar Sports Investments, has been overeager to establish the Parisian club on the international stage.
PSG’s partnership with Jordan and Dior were firsts for the sport and part of a vision to develop the club into a lifestyle brand, as well as a soccer team. Then, the collective jaw of the soccer world dropped as PSG signed Lionel Messi, the centerpiece of its already star-studded team, with little regard for creating a balanced squad or how its big names would fit together.
Indeed, the massive decision to take on the world’s best player, and everything that comes with him, did not work out as QSI would have hoped: Messi had his worst season since arriving on the world stage, and the club crashed out of the Champions League and the Coupe de France in the round of 16.
What the club needed desperately as it closed its disappointing 2021-2022 campaign was a sensible football director at the helm. Someone who could be trusted to overhaul the team, moving on long unwanted players and bringing in desperately needed reinforcements on certain areas of the pitch. PSG could have made no better decision than to hire Luis Campos as football advisor.
Campos’ talent identification is unquestionable: The Portuguese executive constructed the Monaco and Lille teams that punched far above their weights to usurp PSG of the Ligue 1 title in 2017 and 2021, respectively. He unearthed gems that went on to become the world’s best players, including Bernardo Silva, Fabinho and James Rodriguez.
When he was appointed by PSG in June, Campos’ first order of business was repairing a dysfunctional midfield. The midfield lacked technical players beyond Marco Verratti and Leandro Paredes, the former world-class but injury prone and the latter frustratingly inconsistent and a questionable decision maker.
This was a major problem for Les Parisiens last year: Their inability to impose control of the ball and dictate tempo was evident against Manchester City in the Champions League group stage and was what allowed Real Madrid to gain a foothold in the second leg of their knockout tie, upon Paredes’ exit from the game, catalyzing Madrid’s late comeback win.
With the additions of Renato Sanches and Vitinha, along with the imminent signing of Fabian Ruiz, Campos has been immensely successful in raising the technical quality of the midfield.
In Sanches, Les Parisiens have taken an expert ball progressor from their league rivals, Lille. The Portuguese international is a formidable ball carrier and passer, ranking in the top 2% for progressive carrying distance and progressive passes among Ligue 1 midfielders last season.
He is adept at joining the attack and creating chances, tallying five assists last season. Sanches’ bounding runs through the opponents midfield will carve open defenses and serve as a key link to PSG’s front three.
Vitinha, purchased from Porto, is an elegant dribbler and a pest in defense. His debut games for Paris have been controversial — he is productive at carrying the ball through the channels, but he tends to get tunnel vision while dribbling. The Portuguese international is still a proficient passer and dribbler, and at just 22 years old, his game has plenty of time to mature.
Finally, Ruiz’s capture from Napoli may be PSG’s best addition of the summer. An expert technician, the Spaniard is impactful in all phases of play — he could orchestrate Napoli’s attacks from the base of its midfield trio and was equally effective in more advanced roles, creating chances in the final third.
Ruiz also scored seven goals and registered four assists last season, putting him in the top echelon for midfielders in terms of goal contributions. Few midfielders have his expansive passing range, composure on the ball and goal-scoring ability.
With Campos at the helm, PSG has conducted an entire midfield makeover for €75-80 million, a far cry from its previous behavior in the market. Instead of scrambling to cram as many big names into the team, Les Parisiens are committing to real team building that should excite PSG fans.
A seemingly limitless financial backing helps too — the sky is the limit for the QSI and Luis Campos partnership.