Paris Saint-Germain smashed the world-record transfer fee last year to sign Neymar from Barcelona, but despite the big spending driven by their Qatari owners, the French club still lag behind Real Madrid in terms of financial muscle.
Reigning European champions Real (€647.6 million) made almost €200 million more in turnover than PSG last year, according to Deloitte.
The Spanish giants host Unai Emery’s side in the Champions League last 16, first leg on Wednesday, but can the Ligue 1 leaders ever expect to match their illustrious opponents off the pitch, never mind on it?
Real – unrivalled global brand
In the world of club football, Real have always stood alone in terms of sporting achievements as record 12-time European champions, but in recent years they have also dominated financially.
The Madrid club posted the world’s highest annual turnover for a decade until recently being overtaken by Manchester United, fuelled by the Premier League’s astronomical TV rights.
Real’s prosperity in the 21st century was born from president Florentino Perez’s ‘Galactico’ transfer strategy of paying whatever it took to buy the world’s biggest stars.
“If Real have the best players in the world in each position, then revenue won’t be a problem,” Perez told AFP in 2016.
Real broke the world-record transfer fee five times between 2000-2013 by signing Luis Figo, Zinedine Zidane, Kaka, Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale.
The club’s other crucial asset is its Santiago Bernabeu stadium, to which Perez wants to add a roof, new reception areas, a shopping centre and even a hotel – costing an estimated €400 million.
“This is a very busy stadium with large advertising space, many spaces for companies,” said Jose Maria Gay de Liebana, economics professor at the University of Barcelona.
“The Santiago Bernabeu is a gold mine.”
Real Madrid is the most powerful brand on the planet according to the 2017 ranking of Brand Finance, but PSG are on “the same path” according to Leibana.
But he added: “If we go to the other side of the world and ask people, everyone knows Real Madrid, and this isn’t the case yet for PSG.”
PSG – immense potential to exploit
The difference between the two clubs’ reach can be seen by their respective social media followings – Real have approximately 190 million followers online compared to only 50 million for PSG.
But situated in the French capital and backed by Qatar’s billions, PSG have plenty of scope to make more money.
Sports marketing specialist Frank Pons believes the Parisians need to continue copying Real’s Galactico transfer tactics if they’re to bridge the gap.
“In terms of reputation, transfers of €400 million in total for Neymar and (Kylian) Mbappe put (Paris) on the map very quickly,” he said.
“This takes years to achieve normally, but they managed to do it quickly.”
PSG still have a staggering amount of cash available to splash on players, with last month’s ‘Soccerex Football Finance 100’ study ranking them above Real financially when taking into consideration money in the bank and potential investment from owners.
Perhaps the biggest reason Real have an edge over PSG, though, is because of on-field success, as the French side have still never even reached a Champions League final.
Neymar, Mbappe and co could go a long way towards changing the balance of power by beating their illustrious opponents at the Bernabeu on Wednesday.