They all come to the Parc des Princes: the kings and queens of celebrity, the A-listers and reality TV stars and influencers; the great and the good of Hollywood, music and sport.
Oscar winner Leonardo Di Caprio was there, with his black sunglasses, baseball cap pulled down and his jacket pulled up, when Liverpool visited last November. Two seats along, in the VIP section, sat Mick Jagger. Beyonce and Jay Z were sat next to David Beckham when they played Barcelona in September 2014.
The list goes on: Kendal Kenner and Gigi Hadid, wearing PSG shirts with their first names on the back. Rihanna. Gary Neville.
Most of them probably have no idea what football is, but they want to catch a Paris Saint-Germain game.
It feels as though Paris was a city always made for this kind of football club, a high-end city for a high-end football team, yet it is easy to forget that only a decade ago it was still a club riddled by racism and hooliganism, and if a football match was going on the majority of its people would have no idea – or pretend it was not happening.
Times have changed and this is all, of course, exactly what Qatar Sports Investment (QSi), an extension of a country with a history of human rights abuses, corruption and supporting terrorism, wanted when they bought PSG in 2011: aligning themselves with the world’s most popular figures (club chairman and chief executive Nasser Al-Khelaifi , pictured, has been photographed with plenty). They are going beyond sports-washing to brand-washing (perhaps no coincidence my laptop autocorrected that to “brainwashing”, initially).
PSG are simply more than a football club. They want to win trophies and leagues like the rest of the world’s elite, but they also want to be a lifestyle, an ethos, a fashion statement. And they are possibly the only club at which this is achievable.
Paris is chic and cool and mysterious. Al-Khelaifi would have struggled to create the same allure at Burnley.
You could say that London would have some of the same appeal (although clearly not as much as Paris), yet there is a saturation of clubs in England’s capital. So, too, in other major European cities. Crossing continents, though cities such as New York or LA might also fit the bill, Major League Soccer does not come with the Champions League – a major part of the appeal.
When PSG underwent rebranding in 2013 it was noticeable that Al-Khelaifi referred not to the club crest or the badge, but a “logo” when speaking of its redesign. “The evolution of the Paris Saint-Germain logo marks an important stage in the implementing of our ambition namely making Paris Saint-Germain one of the world’s greatest sporting brands,” he announced. (As an aside, if you have a spare minute Google PSG’s badge from 1992-1996; it is absolutely horrendous.)
PSG partner with anything that is cool. One of their early collaborations was with Beats By Dre. When Neymar signed from Barcelona for £200 million in August 2017, he wore his own personalised Beats By Dre wireless headphones.
Last year, at Paris Fashion Week the club had a collaboration with fashion brand KOCHÉ, where PSG shirts were combined with KOCHÉ dresses and paraded down a catwalk by models in the Saint-Merry church. One fashion website wrote that they were “bonded with a surprising harmony” and that it “can be a wind of fresh air in the vision of modern football”. (Hopefully not an unpredictable one that disrupts Jurgen Klopp’s style of football.)
PSG have tie-ins with Levi’s, Jack’s Surfboards, Jason Markk, Chocolate and Primitive. They have had pop-up shops in Miami and LA.
What on earth must Graeme Souness think? When a young, successful Premier League footballer even dares to add any kind of extracurricular activity to that schedule of playing and training a couple of times a week, they are met with utter disgust from the Scot. When Manchester United have a bad game, it is all Paul Pogba’s fault if he had the temerity to have a short back and sides in the few days before.
PSG welcome the side hustles and clothing ranges. The big collaboration for them has been teaming up with the Jordan Brand (for the uninitiated that is NBA legend Michael Jordan’s Nike products). Jordan’s “Jumpman” logo has replaced the Eiffel Tower on PSG’s home and away kit for the Champions League this season.
Since the official launch last year, Justin Timberlake was spotted wearing a “PSG x Jordan” jacket during a gig in Paris, and Travis Scott wore a co-branded basketball jersey performing at a festival in France.
Since QSi took over, the club have targeted players for their celebrity appeal as much as their ability (one tends to come with the other, obviously). Zlatan Ibrahimovic and David Beckham early on, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, two current icons of the game, more recently.
Only on Monday NFL star Odell Beckham Jnr, the New York Giants’ wide receiver, visited their Camp des Loges training ground and was handed a PSG shirt with “OBJ 13” on the back. Sports stars like nothing more than meeting each other and telling each other how amazing they are at their respective sports.
In 2017, one of the NBA’s leading players, Steph Curry, made an appearance on the Parc des Princes pitch ahead of a Ligue 1 match against Saint-Etienne. He chatted with Neymar and was handed a No 30 shirt. “It’s a real privilege to see the biggest stars of the game that are here in Paris, like Neymar obviously,” Curry said.
They may not have won the Champions League yet, but they are already the hottest ticket in world football.