One of Jurgen Klopp’s defining – and divisive – characteristics is a blunt appraisal of footballing economics.
Back in October 2022, Liverpool’s manager declared: “There are three clubs in world football who can do what they want financially.” Klopp was unambiguously referring to Manchester City, Newcastle United and Paris Saint-Germain, a trio of sporting entities transformed by state-funded ownership from the Middle East.
Ironically, in the same season that Klopp and Liverpool dropped into the Europa League, two of this theoretically untouchable trio were drawn against one another in the 2023/24 Champions League group stage.
But just how financially powerful are Newcastle and PSG? Here’s everything you need to know about a duo that – according to Klopp – have “no ceiling” (even if they can afford one).
When Newcastle’s sporting director Dan Ashworth was asked about the political undertones to his side’s matchup with PSG in the 2023 Champions League group stage, he looked back blankly.
“Qatar versus Saudi Arabia,” it was put to him. “Oh, I hadn’t thought about that,” Ashworth replied. “I was just thinking about it in a football context.” That is exactly how the powers that be at both clubs would like these fixtures to be treated.
Yet, it’s hard to ignore the politically charged elephant in the room.
In October 2021, Newcastle finally rid themselves of the loathed Mike Ashley but earned even more controversial majority shareholders. Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) owns 80% of the historic English club but Premier League chief executive Richard Masters has been given “legally binding assurances” that the Kingdom’s government has nothing to do with the takeover.
Presumably, it’s simply a coincidence that Newcastle’s chairman, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, is a PIF governor and has been described as a “sitting minister of the government” in documents published in a US court case.
A decade before Saudi Arabia dove into European football, their smaller – but fiendishly wealthy – neighbours from Qatar rocked up in the French capital. Qatar Sports Investment (QSI) became the majority shareholder of PSG in June 2011, sparking a remarkable spending spree which peaked with the record-breaking purchase of Neymar from Barcelona for £198m in 2017.
QSI, whose chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi holds the same position at PSG, is a subsidiary of Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund, Qatar Investment Authority (QIA).
There was a trade blockade between Qatar and Saudi Arabia (as well as Bahrain, Egypt and the UAE) between 2017 and 2021 but bridges have been tentatively rebuilt in the subsequent years, with football a convenient medium.
At the 2022 Men’s World Cup held in Qatar, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler Mohammed Bin Salman and Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani – the heads of the wealth funds that own Newcastle and PSG respectively – made a public show of mutual respect when greeting one another at the tournament’s opening ceremony.
This may just be about football for Ashworth, but it has plenty more meaning attached to it.
PSG may be responsible for the two most expensive transfers of all time – Kylian Mbappe didn’t come cheap either – but, surprisingly, they have not been the biggest spenders in Europe since QSI’s takeover in 2011.
Across the previous 12 years, the Premier League trio of Chelsea (£2.30bn), Manchester City (£1.79bn) and Manchester United (£1.69bn) have all coughed up more in transfer fees than PSG (£1.68bn).
Newcastle’s owners have only had four transfer windows to work with and the latest, summer 2023, also saw the extravagant splurge of four Saudi Pro League clubs that are also owned by PIF. Nevertheless, Newcastle have still managed to blow more than £380m on transfer fees since the PIF takeover.
On average, PSG have spent £67.2m on transfers per window while Newcastle – with plenty of catching up to do – have been able to splash £95m each time out.
According to the most recent publicly available accounts, PSG’s annual revenue is around three times the sum that Newcastle can rake in (per Deloitte).
PSG posted earnings of £554m in 2022, an 18% increase from the previous year, which was enough to rank the perennial giants as the fifth richest club on the planet. Newcastle squeezed into the top 20 with a return of £179.8m.
The swollen funds brought by qualification to the 2023/24 Champions League will surely bring Newcastle a lot closer to PSG’s revenue – and certainly see them leapfrog Leicester City, Leeds United and Everton in Deloitte’s Money List.