By Will Chamblee | Sports Writer
Bayern Munich won the UEFA Champions League 1-0 over Paris-Saint Germain on Sunday in Lisbon. This was Bayern’s sixth Champions League title, which is the most prestigious trophy in European club soccer.
While all Champions League finals are incredibly important, this final in particular was more important than most. This final was a battle for the soul of European club soccer.
European club soccer was built on the principle of being by the fans and for the fans. Clubs were built and run by fans, ensuring a personal connection between the club and community.
No team personifies this more than Bayern Munich, of which 75% is owned by the fans. And no team is more against this principle than PSG, which is owned by the ruler of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.
Since they were acquired by Al Thani in 2011, PSG has spent over 1 billion dollars on players with one goal in mind: to win the Champions League.
PSG broke the world record for the largest transfer fee in 2017, signing superstar Neymar for a staggering price of 262 million dollars from Barcelona. The club came close to breaking the record again in 2018 when they signed teenage prodigy Kylian Mbappé for 212 million dollars from rival club AS Monaco.
In total, PSG’s starting 11 costs over 635 million in transfer fees. In comparison, Bayern Munich’s entire starting 11 only cost 106 million dollars.
Bayern Munich built their team through shrewd transfer business, smart investments and home-grown prospects from their academy in Munich, a reminder of how soccer clubs are supposed to be built.
Bayern, and German soccer in general, has had a firm commitment to keeping club soccer accessible to its community and fans. This commitment has been a bright spot in a sport that is continually becoming more monetized and politicized.
Adversely, PSG has been content to use the riches of Qatar to buy whichever player it pleases, blatantly disregarding the Union of European Football Association’s Financial Fair Play Rules, while using its wealth and influence to skirt any punishments. This results in an unfair playing field for many clubs who are not as fortunate to be backed by the ruler of an entire country.
Left unchecked, PSG will continue to decrease the parity and competitiveness of club soccer in Europe, as well as the enjoyment levels for the fans.
PSG is not alone in its quest to try and buy trophies. Clubs like Manchester City, which is owned by the deputy prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, have employed similar strategies. Yet, it is important to note that neither team has achieved their goal of winning the Champions League.
If PSG were to have won the title on Sunday, it would have been a watershed moment for these types of clubs. But Bayern Munich has ensured that, at least for one more year, the Champions League will not be bought. It must be earned.