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Aug 26, 2014

PSG need new transfer strategy after Di Maria, Luiz blunders

The ESPN FC team breaks down the numbers on some of the most expensive transfers in European football and analyses whether Angel Di Maria is worth a big transfer fee.

For the first time since Qatar Sports Investments' (QSI) arrival in France in 2011, Paris Saint-Germain have been unable to spend freely this summer.

Supporters and the French media have grown accustomed to the capital club spending in the region of 100 million euros each offseason break, having been spoiled for the past three summers with a string of high-profile arrivals. However, this year PSG have not been allowed to do as they please, and it won't be changing anytime soon.

For the best part of preseason and the first few games of the Ligue 1 campaign, speculation was rife that the French champions were going to sign Real Madrid's Angel Di Maria.

Much was made of PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi's personal relationship with los Blancos' supremo Florentino Perez, and it was reported that their strong friendship would enable the current Championnat titleholders to sign el Fideo ("the noodle") on a loan deal with an obligation to buy, something that seems to be in vogue under UEFA's Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules.

However, the Di Maria-to-PSG stories ultimately turned out to be nothing but hot air, and it looks as if there will be no further movement on the transfer front from the French giants this window. Their failure to capture the talented Argentine is disappointing, but it is also a reminder of the reality faced by Les Rouge-et-Bleus in the transfer market with FFP now in play. As a result, it has left coach Laurent Blanc's team lacking depth in the one position where they could really do with reinforcing.

PSG could have acquired Angel Di Maria if they hadn't used their spending resources in the wrong way.

Since taking over at PSG after the departure of Carlo Ancelotti for Real, Blanc has made no secret of his desire to sign a reliable creative midfielder. But so far, he has not been granted his wish. The club supposedly tried to sign Mesut Ozil before he opted to join Arsenal and Juan Mata before he joined Manchester United, and now PSG have been frustrated in their pursuit of Di Maria. So Blanc is still without what he would consider a major creative outlet in midfield.

Javier Pastore, Lucas Moura, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Marco Verratti and Yohan Cabaye are all creative players deployed in the two most advanced thirds of the pitch. However, none of those five are consistent enough -- either through their own hot-and-cold form or their positioning on the pitch -- to make PSG as clinical in front of goal as they could be.

Di Maria would have changed that and allowed Blanc to continue to play in his preferred 4-3-3 formation, finally finding the perfect player to complete a prolific front three. However, the club's failure to land the 26-year-old means that the French capital outfit have not strengthened in every area they wanted to this summer.

- Johnson: Familiar problems for Blanc and PSG

That failure can be attributed to PSG's woeful use of the transfer market and lack of clear direction from the club's hierarchy. In May, Al-Khelaifi boldly stated in L'Equipe that "the players that I want, I will have," but that simply has not proved to be the case.

This statement -- and the way Les Parisiens' transfer window has panned out -- suggests that the club's leaders did not fully understand the gravity of the FFP sanctions at first. Now they do and, with that in mind, now may be the time for a rethink in strategy.

With PSG subject to such major financial constraints, a new sporting director is a must for the club.

Olivier Letang, the man currently acting as sporting director when the occasion calls for it, is not qualified enough for the role that he currently holds and is an unpopular character to boot. Replacing him full-time with somebody capable of coping with the current circumstances would be a smart move.

That someone would then need to evaluate the current squad -- along with Blanc -- and together they would need to decided who should be sold, which areas they need to strengthen in and which of the club's many talented youth academy graduates should be integrated into the first team squad and persevered with. In the current climate created by FFP, PSG cannot afford to be hemorrhaging their best young talent without at least selling it at a premium price. The departure of Kingsley Coman and the likely sale of Adrien Rabiot is simply unacceptable for a club of their size and stature.

PSG are in need of a smart business mind and an expert negotiator to take care of transfers and to provide Blanc with the players that he needs to take the club forward.

Transfer deals such as the David Luiz one can no longer be allowed to happen, at least until FFP is no longer a concern. There was better value for money available this summer and PSG could have bought a capable central defender and a reasonably priced creative midfielder with the money spent on the Brazilian.

Though David Luiz is a solid defender, PSG came under heavy criticism for spending 50 million pounds to acquire the Brazilian.

However, the club did not think their transfer strategy through and, instead, they allowed themselves to rage at UEFA's decision. That rush of blood to the head resulted in the arrival of Luiz and therefore handicapped the club for the remainder of this transfer window.

It is not that the former Chelsea man is not a good player; he is. It was just not smart business from PSG at such a high price, and that -- more than anything -- is what the French champions need right now.

Only with a sporting director to oversee that side of the project can Les Parisiens strengthen while also abiding by the FFP rules. The most intelligent signing the capital club could make before the end of this transfer window is a recruitment guru who will not bow to player power. The Qataris appear to be too attached to certain underperforming players, and they also seem to have given too much power to key individuals.

This must be redressed if PSG are to progress any further than they already have.

Jonathan Johnson

Based in Paris, Jonathan Johnson is a freelance football journalist and the voice of PSG TV. He writes for ESPN, Bleacher Report and French Football Weekly. You can find him on Twitter @Jon_LeGossip.

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