“If Pep Guardiola & Manchester City feel hurt, I am sorry… I have come here to be a champion,” said Dani Alves in a press conference just after his spectacular unveiling as a Paris Saint-Germain player last week. The former Barcelona man signed for the French giants on a free transfer after revoking his contract with previous employers Juventus.
Alves, 34, was constantly linked with a move to English side Manchester City throughout the summer with multiple agencies reporting earlier in the month that a deal had been struck between the two parties. Pep Guardiola, who is Manchester City’s current boss, managed the Brazilian international at FC Barcelona from 2008-12. Guardiola’s presence at the helm of the club was seen as a major motivator for Alves to make a move to Manchester.
Hence, the news of Alves’ signature for PSG last Monday came as a rude shock to the club and its supporters. Former PSG left-back Maxwell, who is currently the assistant sporting director at the club, is said to have a played a major role in luring his fellow compatriot to Paris.
“PSG are ambitious and desire to win a title that it has not managed to for now [the UEFA Champions League],” the club’s new number 32 went on to say. “I have friends here and my wife likes this city very much — these were several elements that convinced me to change my mind”.
With all due respect to his wife, perhaps the main reason why Alves chose to join PSG over Manchester City is to do with wages. It is reported that PSG offered Alves a salary to the tune of 15 million dollars a year, roughly translating to about $230k a week! This is more than double of what Pep Guardiola and Manchester City were offering the Brazilian as part of their offer.
So what brought about this seismic offer from the Qatari owners of PSG for a player who was on the verge of completing his move to Manchester City? In other words, why did PSG hijack Manchester City’s impending deal with Alves?
Of course, every team would love to have a world class defender such as Dani Alves in their side. He is an experienced international who has won multiple trophies with every club he has played for in his illustrious career. But does it really make sense to pay $230k a week to a 34-year full back who is clearly past his prime?
— PSG Officiel (@PSG_inside) July 12, 2017
The hyperinflationary nature of the European transfer market is one explanation for this move. Players such as Kyle Walker, Romelu Lukaku and Antonio Rüdiger have been sold for extraordinary amounts of money this summer.
However, when it comes to Dani Alves and his move to PSG, one suspects that there is more to it than meets the eye.
PSG, Manchester City and the Qatar Crisis
The current standoff between Qatar and the other Gulf states may lie at the heart of PSG’s sensational capture of Dani Alves from under the noses of Manchester City. A little backdrop of the crisis first.
The fault lines in the Gulf were sensationally exposed last month when Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt and Bahrain decided to snap their diplomatic ties with Qatar. The Saudi-led quartet accused Qatar of supporting extremist groups and using state media mouthpiece Al Jazeera to further its own regional ambitions.
But what does this have to do with Dani Alves and his transfer to PSG?
Paris Saint-Germain was taken over by a private Qatari company called Oryx Qatar Sports Investments (QSi) in 2011. The Chairman of QSi, Nasser Al-Khelaifi, is also the CEO of the Qatar based sports broadcaster beIN Media Group. Al-Khelaifi has close ties to the Qatar government and the ruling Al-Thani family. In 2013, Al-Khelaifi was made a Minister without Portfolio in the Qatar government by the Emir Tamim bin-Hamad al-Thani. Although his current role in the government remains unclear, it is safe to say that Al-Khelaifi has the full backing of the Qatari ruling family.
Manchester City, on the other hand, were acquired by the Abu Dhabi United Group (ADUG) in 2008. The Chairman of the ADUG, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, is also the Deputy Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and the half-brother of the current UAE President Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Eminent Emirati businessman Khaldoon Khalifa Al Mubarak was appointed as the Chairman of the Manchester City Football Club by Sheikh Mansour in late 2008.
Given their ownership structures, it is clear that PSG and Manchester City represent the interests of the Qatari and the UAE governments respectively. In the regional battle for one-upmanship, it isn’t very surprising to see the Qatar-UAE feud spill over into the football transfer market. Although none of this is in the public domain, Al-Khelaifi and the Qatari establishment would have been quietly delighted to have scored one over their Abu Dhabi counterparts.
Meanwhile, Manchester City and its Chairman Al Mubarak have been left red faced by swift transfer activity of the Qataris. Earlier this week, City completed the signing of Tottenham Hotspur right-back Kyle Walker for a whopping 50 million pounds to offset the loss of Alves.
PSG’s capture of Dani Alves has hurt Sheikh Mansour both financially as well as politically. It can definitely be considered as a symbolic victory for Qatar over UAE and the other members of the Gulf quartet in their battle for regional supremacy.