Messi departure effect erased…PSG on track for ‘third consecutive year’ of record revenue

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The signing of Lee Kang-in has kept PSG afloat despite the departures of Lionel Messi and Neymar.

On July 31 (KST), French media outlet Le Parisien shed light on the business side of French big club PSG, predicting a green light on all fronts. As part of the report, they talked about the impact of Lee’s signing.

“PSG’s income target is to exceed last season’s revenue of 800 million euros (about KRW 1.1557 trillion),” the media reported, adding that “the club is confident of surpassing last season’s revenue and is responding to the good trend this season.”

According to the Deloitte Football Money League 2024 annual report, released by Deloitte, one of the world’s top four accounting firms, on April 25, PSG finished in the podium (top three) for the first time in its history with a revenue of €818.8 million in the 2022-2023 season.

This is an increase of nearly €200 million from the previous 2021-2022 season’s revenue of €654.2 million. It is the first time in the club’s history that revenue has exceeded €800 million.

“These revenues are an unprecedented achievement for us,” the club said, noting that it moved up two places from the previous season. It was the club’s highest revenue for the second year in a row, and the 23% increase in revenue last season was the second highest growth rate among the top 10 European clubs that season.

Until last season, PSG had a lavish roster. All the big names like Lionel Messi, Neymar, and Marco Verratti were on the roster, including Kylian Mbappe, who is still a team icon.

PSG won the league title, but fell short of the big time in the UEFA Champions League, losing in the round of 16 to Bayern Munich (Germany).

Last summer, Lionel Messi, Neymar, and Verratti all left the club, forcing the team to rebuild. Neymar’s departure to Al Hilal (Saudi Arabia) netted the club a €100 million transfer fee, while Messi left as a free agent to join Inter Miami (USA). Verratti’s departure to Al Arabi (Qatar) netted the club €45 million.

But the investment that followed wasn’t cheap. Randall Kolo Moani, one of the stars of the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar, was acquired from Eintracht Frankfurt (Germany) for €95 million, and Manuel Ugarte was brought in from Sporting CP (Portugal) for €60 million. Ousmane Dembele was also acquired from Barcelona for €50 million (approximately KRW 72.2 billion).

In addition, Lee Kang-indo was acquired from Mallorca (Spain) for a transfer fee of €22 million (approximately KRW 31.7 billion). It was the seventh most expensive transfer for PSG in the summer transfer window. Gonzalo Higuain, who is set to join the club on a permanent transfer after a loan spell, will cost €65 million (approx. KRW 93.9 billion), effectively pushing Lee down to eighth place.

But for PSG, the impact of Lee’s signing is more than expected. “From a business point of view, they are compensating for the departure of Neymar, Messi, Verratti and his teammates with Lee. He is bringing in huge new crowds,” and “this season could be more profitable than last season.”

The club said in a press release, “Lee Kang-in has brought another new type of spectator to Paris. It’s really exciting for the club,” the club said in a press release.

Lee’s impact has been felt since the preseason. As the club said in December last year, it’s the Lee syndrome. PSG’s decision is a fan service gesture, as the number of Korean fans has increased dramatically since Lee joined the club. According to PSG, the number of Korean fans attending PSG matches at the Parc des Princes has increased by 20% since Lee joined the club in the 2023-2024 season. In addition, PSG’s social media accounts gained 22,000 Korean followers on Twitter and more than 35,000 followers on Naver.

In fact, PSG didn’t sign Lee Kang-in for the marketing effect. They were expecting an influx of Korean fans, but not to this extent.

In a recent lecture at the Sorbonne, PSG president Luis Campos said, “I worked hard to sign Lee Kang-in. The finance department told me that I couldn’t spend more than a certain amount (on him),” explaining that he is a good player, but not one to splurge on a transfer, and that PSG had UEFA Financial Fair Play (FFP) restrictions. “From a soccer point of view, I really like him. He is the kind of player Luis Enrique wanted. But I didn’t think it (the signing) would affect our marketing in Asia.”

PSG were equally surprised by Lee’s skill as they were by his marketing explosion. The Korean-language jerseys are a way for the club to solidify the loyalty of the Korean fans that Lee has attracted.

“The growing interest of fans from the ‘Land of the Morning Calm’ has made Paris the club with the third largest following among domestic soccer clubs,” PSG boasted.

“PSG’s growing popularity in Korea can be measured by the commercial success of its official store in Seoul, which opened in July, and is now the club’s second largest market in terms of e-commerce.”

Beyond PSG, Ligue 1, the French top division, has taken notice of Lee’s star power.

Most notably, the world-class striker has sold more jerseys than PSG star Mbappe.

Ligue 1 said, “Lee’s jersey has sold more than Mbappe’s. PSG has a true superstar on its hands.” “South Korean tourists are flocking to PSG’s stadiums. PSG is more popular in Asia than ever before,” he marveled.

Lee isn’t just a marketing gimmick, though; he’s become an integral part of PSG this season. He has earned a regular spot in the squad this season despite missing the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou and the 2023 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup in Qatar.

He has one goal and two assists in 10 Ligue 1 matches, and has also scored one goal in five group stage matches in the UEFA Champions League. Tactically, Lee plays a key role in unlocking PSG’s attack, setting up Mbappe and his teammates.

In his last match before joining the Korean National Team for the Asian Cup, Lee started in the Trophée des Champions (French Super Cup) against Toulouse on April 4, scoring the game-winning goal in the third minute of the first leg, assisted by Ousmane Dembele, to win the match and earn Man of the Match honors.

Lee is currently at the Asian Cup, where he has three goals and one assist in the tournament, helping South Korea reach the quarterfinals. In Lee’s absence, PSG has one win and one draw in two league games and two wins in the Coupe de France to advance to the seventh round.

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