Paris Saint-Germain has bought Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva for a sum of about €65m, as AC Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi confirmed yesterday. While contract negotiations hold the deal up for the moment (though according to Tancredi Palmeri, Zlatan's done his), it's more likely than not that both players will figure something out with the French club and will move from Milan to Paris for the coming season.
This is an Arsenal blog, not a PSG or Milan blog, so I'm not going too in-depth into how this changes either team on the field, since I really don't care unless we face them in next year's Champions League (and with PSG in Pot 3 or 4 for next season, that could happen in the group stage, which would just be AWESOME, RIGHT?) or a friendly or something. But the move is not irrelevant to us.
I'll start with the negative effect and move on to the slightly less negative effect. As you may know, or may not if you don't pay a lot of attention to French football, the Qatar Investment Authority has been the majority shareholder in PSG since early last summer. They've blasted a firehose of Euro notes at players like Javier Pastore and Kevin Gamiero (and still didn't win the league last year), and very clearly are not done doing that. Like Manchester City they've achieved the first step towards world domination - that is, qualification to the Champions league - unlike City, they haven't won their domestic league yet. So assume for now that the spending will continue until performances improve.
So now alongside OG Chelsea and over-full Manchester City we have PSG and Anzhi and Malaga and (probably) soon other teams fueled by oil money dumping that money into football at shocking rates. (Also non-oil teams like Liverpool, who spent about as much on Andy Carroll and Jordan Henderson combined as PSG just did on Actual Good Players Zlatan and Thiago, for fairness' sake.) We don't have that money at the moment (and likely won't, unless Alisher Usmanov challenges Stan Kroenke to a duel or something), and the club's financial policies and philosophy make it impossible to compete when it comes to the biggest players. It's debatable how important to the club's success that really is - personally, I feel that it's far more annoying when a player like Juan Mata slips from our grasp than one like Ibrahimovic, and we can operate as we do - but it's certainly annoying, at the very least, and damaging to the game at worst. This is a conversation we've had, and all know about already, but PSG just brought it to the forefront again with a cashbomb.
A reminder: Robin van Persie is probably leaving. He might not, but he probably is. My stance on the matter is that if he won't sign a contract, he should be sold as soon as possible for the largest amount of money possible, which should then be re-invested into finding suitable replacements and other awesome players. On that front, this is quite good news. Paris Saint-Germain is, obviously, no longer looking for a central striker. They have a very good one now. According to manager Carlo Ancelotti, they were never all that interested to begin with, so that's not really an issue.
On the other hand, if Arsenal and Arsene Wenger play their cards right, this could be a way to extract actual value from van Persie even after his public statement last week torpedoed it. AC Milan have a bunch on money lying around, and they have a hole in their strikeforce. They have players who can score goals, like Robinho and Pato, but realistically Ibrahimovic is better than both of them, and I would claim that van Persie is as well. Let's take a look for a moment at Milan's 2012 roster losses: Ibahimovich, Silva, Alessandro Nesta, Gennaro Gattuso, Mark van Bommel, Clarence Seedorf, Filippo Inzaghi. That's a lot of older players, but also a lot of quality that will have to be replaced if they honestly want to compete in both Serie A and the Champions League next season - and it includes two forwards. We are not going to get €65m from Milan for van Persie, but that money and those departures make the Italians a legitimate possible buyer.
They may not be. Berlusconi is talking about the move in terms of saving him money, which is fun and interesting and not at all insane, so it's definitely possible that the club will just sit on that money. But there's at least some chance that they won't, which brings into play the second part of the equation: Juventus. The Turinese club have shown interest, and though the fee floated in that story is a bit (yeah) low, it was also published before the PSG business all went down. It is not at all inconceivable that Juve and Milan could engage in a minor bidding war over van Persie, raising his price to at least what it's claimed Manchester City would offer, which in my mind is much better as it adds the benefit of van Persie not playing in England anymore. Were I in charge of Juventus, and if I had the financial ability to pull it off, it would be worth £20m or so to keep Milan from getting him, to keep them in what appears to be a bit of a weakened state. Additionally, Juventus return to the Champions League this year, and a world-class striker would certainly do their continental campaign (as well as the domestic one) a fair amount of good.
This is all far from guaranteed, of course. Juventus may stand pat on their £15m valuation, Berlusconi may actually use Ibrahimovic and Silva to finance a return to politics, and we may end up getting the short end of the stick again. But PSG and Milan have thrown the football world into a bit of tumult this week, and the waves being made may very well end up on Arsenal shores. With some luck and a bit of skill, perhaps it could be used to the club's advantage.