Man City vs PSG: Battle of Two Clubs on Another Financial Playing Field


Tomorrow night sees Paris Saint-Germain hosting Manchester City in the first of their two legged UEFA Champions League semifinal tie. If City wins the tie they’ll go to the UCL final for the first time ever, if PSG triumphs, then it’s a return to the finale, having reached their first in club history just last season.

Neither club has ever won the Champions League, but that’s far from the only thing they have in common. Both Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain are owned by oil-rich nations, the only two clubs in world football that have this distinction. And being funded by ultra-wealthy petrolstates puts them on a different financial plane, above everyone else.

Team News:  Paris Saint-Germain    Manchester City

Starting XI Predictions   Paris Saint-Germain    Manchester City

MCFC is owned by City Football Group, an imperial holding company 78% controlled by Abu Dhabi United Group, a private equity company owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, a member of the Abu Dhabi Royal Family and the Minister of Presidential Affairs for the United Arab Emirates.

Sheikh Mansour’s net worth alone is estimated to be $22 billion, or $7b more than Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich. 

sheikh mansour

If you’ve never been to a game at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, well, you’ll only have been to one less match than their owner. Mansour has been known to celebrate City’s Premier League titles from afar, once even in mid-air aboard a luxury jet, by slicing a novelty cake with a sword. Understandable, as cake is best enjoyed with a sword; that’s just common sense. 

In 1998, City was toiling in the third tier of English football. This season, they’ll claim their third Premier League title in the past five years, and their League Cup win last weekend now ties them with Liverpool for the most all time by any single club.

The world’s only other state-owned club, Qatar’s Paris Saint-Germain is the biggest upstart, nouveau riche club in the entire world. They have only been around since 1970, but they’re now worth $2.5 billion, they come in #9 on the Forbes rich list.


Their official ownership group is QSI, a subsidiary of the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA). They became the club’s majority shareholders in June 2011 and sole shareholders in March 2012

Since then PSG has shelled out the most money ever (222 million euro) for one single player in Neymar, and the second most ever as well, 180 million euro, for Kylian Mbappe. 

Not surprisingly, there are many City and PSG critics out there, with one of the loudest being La Liga President Javier Tebas. He feels, as do many people, that City and PSG are not competing on a playing field level with everyone else in football.

“I have criticized what they do so many times,” Tebas said late last year as City pursued Barcelona galactico Lionel Messi again.

“Doing it one more time makes no difference. City is neither affected by COVID or pandemics or anything because they are financed differently and it is impossible to fight against that.”

Tebas also took a shot at Man City that summer when City’s UEFA ban, for allegedly violating Financial Fair Play rules, got overturned. Originally banned from European competition for two seasons, it turned out City would be left out of none. 

Additionally, their fine would be reduced, because the game of football is like the game of life, it follows the other golden rule – he who has the gold makes the rules. 

Also, their €30 million fine was reduced to €10m by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

“We all know what City do,” Tebas said. 

“When they were punished [by UEFA originally], there was no surprise among the majority of us involved in European football.

“I don’t want to say [people were] happy, but at last there was a sense of justice against these big state-owned clubs, the other being Paris Saint-Germain,” Tebas said.

Tebas hit the nail on the head, Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain are on a different plane than everyone else. Of course, La Liga/Spanish football has also had plenty of corruption issues itself, but this is an entirely different animal with City and PSG. Capitalism is a system in which the winners can win very big, often bigger than all other competing players combined. 

However, you’re not allowed to win so big that you then rig the game to the point where no one else can play. (See Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, Standard Oil et al) The essence of sports reflects, in theory, what makes the concept of capitalism so ideologically appealing – “pure competition.”

Like “laissez-faire” or “deregulation,” “pure competition” is a concept that exists only in theoretical frameworks of business school textbooks, not in the real world. Often, when something becomes “deregulated,” the rule book actually gets thicker and deregulation is mostly just a euphemism for rewriting the rules to only further benefit the people already on top.

However, Financial Fair Play attempts (but mostly fails), to create an equal playing field. And pure competition is what we love about sports – how it all comes down to who is more talented, harder working, possessing more desire. In essence, pure competition. 


It’s supposed to be the ultimate meritocracy; no room for cronyism or nepotism. However, at least we can give PSG credit for this, they never signed on to the European Super League plot. And while City did, at least they were one of the last English clubs to join in, and one of the first to leave. 

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank, partnered with News NowBanks, the author of “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” has regularly appeared in WGNSports IllustratedChicago Tribune and SB NationFollow him on Twitter and Instagram.

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