When nouveaux riches Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City meet at the Parc des Princes in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final on Wednesday, they will do so as two of the ogres of the modern game.
Two of Europe’s financial powerhouses thanks to their oil-rich Middle Eastern owners, City are in the last eight for the first time while PSG are there for the fourth year in succession.
The stakes are high, and it will all be a far cry from the only previous meeting of the teams, only a little over seven years ago.
On a cold December night in 2008, PSG visited City’s Eastlands home for a UEFA Cup group stage tie that ended in an uninspiring 0-0 draw watched by 25,626 spectators.
It was just a few months after City had been taken over by Sheikh Mansour and the Abu Dhabi United Group, and future England goalkeeper Joe Hart, Pablo Zabaleta and current captain Vincent Kompany were all in their team that night, as was a teenage Daniel Sturridge.
None of that night’s PSG team remain at the club today — instead of Zlatan Ibrahimovic they had Peguy Luyindula and Mateja Kezman up front, while there was no Thiago Silva in defence, but Sammy Traore and Gregory Bourillon were playing.
If the clubs — whose only European silverware to date is one Cup Winners’ Cup each — have become Champions League regulars, City were only in Europe in 2008-09 as England’s Fair Play representatives.
PSG, meanwhile, had come close to being relegated from Ligue 1 the previous season but did win the League Cup and lost to champions Lyon in the French Cup final.
Both teams went on to reach the quarter-finals, City losing to Hamburg and PSG to Dynamo Kiev, but it was an instantly forgettable encounter.
“A half-full Eastlands was given an example of European football at its most tedious,” said the British Daily Telegraph.
“It was hardly the kind of occasion that will tempt the likes of Lionel Messi, Iker Casillas or Kaka to consider life in the blue half of Manchester.”
Well, City’s standing now is such that, with Pep Guardiola taking over as coach next season, it is not stretching the imagination too much to imagine Messi appearing at the Etihad Stadium at some point in the future.
– Creme de la Creme -That year they were an emerging force and ranked 19th in analysts Deloitte’s Football Money League, while PSG were nowhere to be seen.
Indeed, before the clubs’ meeting, Le Parisien marvelled that City’s budget for the January transfer window would be twice PSG’s entire budget for the year.
The same Deloitte report for the 2014-15 season ranked both clubs in the top six, along with Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United and Bayern Munich, established superpowers who between them have won the Champions League five times since 2009 and been runners-up four times.
“Now we are in there with clubs who are as powerful as us financially, who have much greater histories and who possess players as talented as ours. This is the ‘creme de la creme’,” PSG coach Laurent Blanc told France Info on Saturday.
The challenge now for PSG and City — whose combined revenues for last season were 944.3 million euros ($1.076 billion) — is to get to the final themselves.
PSG’s explosion since their takeover by Qatar Sports Investments in 2011 has been more emphatic than City’s, with four straight French titles compared to two since 2008 for City.
City can say that competition is much fiercer in the Premier League, but they come into this tie as the outsiders, despite being able to call on the likes of Sergio Aguero, David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne.
That is testament to how far PSG have come in a short space of times, but these two clubs are the proof that anyone can emerge and compete with the traditional continental giants, at least if they can find an investor sitting on vast Gulf oil reserves.