Paris Saint-Germain have come agonisingly close to Champions League glory in recent years but now, a decade after the Qatari takeover, it took just two months to put them in their best position yet.
After last season’s disappointment PSG made it clear it was not messing around, adding Georginio Wijnaldum, Sergio Ramos, Gianluigi Donnarumma and Achraf Hakimi.
The latter was the only one who joined on a transfer fee of any kind, added for €60 million.
The other three were not just free agents though, they were the best of the lot and signed in the same transfer window for the same club.
Now it looks like Lionel Messi is going to join them, with the six-time Ballon d’Or winner also a free agent after failing to agree to terms with Barcelona before his contract expired.
After collapsing in the Champions League semi-final and surrendering the Ligue 1 crown last season, there was a need for change and PSG have done it in the most shrewd way possible.
The takeover from Qatar Sports Investments is a decade old and now Mauricio Pochettino has all the talent in the world as his disposal.
Never has Champions League glory seemed so close for PSG.
In Donarumma, PSG added the best young goalkeeper in the world, fresh off being crowned player of the tournament at Euro 2020 after his heroics in the penalty shootout.
Then there is Ramos, one of the best defenders of all time who boasts multiple Champions Leagues with Real Madrid.
The 35-year old is the perfect fit for PSG – a born competition and leader who arrives as the ideal central defender to clean up its defence.
Wijnaldum, meanwhile, has been a key part of Liverpool’s success in both the Premier League and Champions League but also crucially has experience transferring his skills from the Netherlands to England.
Hakimi was the only exception, with Inter Milan requiring funds to move him on and PSG the logical suitor for the right back.
A €60 million transfer fee though is what you would usually come to expect for someone of his quality.
The signing of Messi though would be the most impressive yet and rocket Pochettino and PSG to the Champions League trophy.
Messi “absolutely fits the strategy developed by the club over the past 10 years,” Christophe Lepetit of the Centre for Law and Sporting Economy (CDES) told AFP.
“In sporting terms he is a player who can help you climb the last step to win the Champions League,” an accolade which still eludes PSG, who lost the 2020 final to Bayern Munich.
“He also allows the development of other income streams, notably commercial ones,” said Lepetit.
While the arrival of Messi would all but end PSG’s interest in Manchester United’s Paul Pogba, the Barca superstar’s addition being the exclamation mark on a promise two months in the making.
Back in June PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi was adamant the French club would “never sell” Kylian Mbappe, while revealing it would be ambitious in the transfer window.
He has come good on both those promises (for now), with the addition of Messi seeing PSG line up with a new front three of Mbappe, Neymar and the ex-Barcelona superstar.
While Messi may not arrive with a transfer fee, his wage would obviously be an issue although Pochettino maintained any potential move would not see Mbappe leave.
“I have not spoken with [Messi],” he told reporters ahead of Saturday’s Ligue 1 opener against Troyes.
“And [any move] would not mean that Kylian would leave.
“A player of Messi’s calibre, that is what is interesting to me. The club are working on several options, but we must focus on the game with Troyes.”
Questions though will also be asked of whether PSG is operating within the financial fair play (FFP) rules given the current financial implications of the pandemic.
With French football in financial crisis following the recent collapse of broadcaster Mediapro, PSG have to tread a careful path.
According to French financial watchdog DNCG, the club ended the Covid-interrupted 2019/20 season with pre-tax losses of 124.9 million euros.
Even though UEFA has relaxed financial fair-play restrictions, PSG still need to make savings and yet they have already spent big this summer, signing Ramos, Donnarumma, Wijnaldum and Hakimi.
It will go down as one of the greatest summer transfer sprees in history and it may just cost them just €60m.