PSG president welcomes Monaco rivalry
Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser al-Khelaifi has said some players would get bored or would not move to France at all were it not for his club's burgeoning rivalry with Monaco.
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PSG host Monaco on Sunday in the most eagerly-awaited game of the French season, with the defending champions two points adrift of their table-topping visitors.
The Paris club won Ligue 1 by 12 points last season, but Russian-owned Ligue 2 champions Monaco spent €166 million on new players in a bid to challenge for the crown.
But Laurent Blanc’s side spent over €100 million in the summer and al-Khelaifi, 39, says the growing rivalry can only be good for French football.
"I never panicked in the face of Monaco’s summer recruitment," the Qatari told L’Equipe. "I have huge confidence in my men, the players as well as the coach. I respect all the other teams, but none of them worry me.
"The presence of Monaco helps make Ligue 1 more attractive. Without the spice of a rivalry, the players would get bored and some of them wouldn’t even want to come to France.
"It wouldn’t interest me if we reached the top in France all the time without having to work too hard.
"To be excited, to feel emotion, you need heated competition. That’s what we’ve been seeing since the beginning of the season, and all the better for it."
The PSG president said he was sad to see defender Mamadou Sakho leave for Liverpool last month but believes that it was "great business" for both clubs.
Al-Khelaifi’s next job will be to tie down the other players in the final year of their contracts, Blaise Matuidi and Jérémy Ménez, as well as finalising an extended deal for star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
"Matuidi confirmed to me that he would like to stay in Paris beyond the current season," Al-Khelaifi said. "I’m sure we’ll keep him with us and that he will not leave on a free.
"The same goes for Jeremy Menez. We want to keep him. He’s one of the biggest talents, even if he still has progress to make.
"As for Ibra, he’s the soul of the club just like Thiago Silva and now Cavani is. He’s a key part of PSG. To keep him here for as long as possible is very important."
Unsurprisingly, Sunday’s match against Monaco at the Parc des Princes will be a 45,000 sell-out. PSG midfielder Javier Pastore returned to training on Thursday, while centre-back Alex and midielder Lucas are doubtful.
If Alex does not recover, fellow Brazilian Marquinhos will continue in his absence. A €35 million summer signing from Roma, he made his first start for PSG in their 4-1 win over Olympiakos in the Champions League.