PSG's Ibrahimovic signing has upset the French
Levels of tax on striker's wages in question
24 July ~ A few months ago, in the satirical French TV show Les Guignols, a fake advertisement announced the release of a new Panini album: "All the players who could have signed for PSG". Kaká, Alexandre Pato, David Beckham, Samuel Eto'o, more than 600 stickers to collect. Luka Modric or Falcao could be added to the list this summer, but with Zlatan Ibrahimovic's signing, PSG's Qatari owners have finally succeeded in attracting a superstar. In Paris he will be joined by his Rossonero team-mate Thiago Silva, the other half of a deal organised by Silvio Berlusconi to improve AC Milan's finances.
PSG paid €20 million (£15.6m) to Milan and have given Ibrahimovic a three-year contract, with an estimated net annual salary of €14m. The latter point turned out to be more crucial than usual in such negotiations. During the 2012 French presidential campaign, the eventual victor François Hollande promised that a 75 per cent tax on incomes above €1m might come into force next year.
Although the law has not yet been passed, PSG's Qatari president Nasser Al-Khelaïfi insisted that they would respect it. In other words, tax avoidance strategies for an employee hired from abroad have been found. One way or another the club will deal with it if the current tax regime changes. Currently, the highest rate is 41 per cent for incomes above €70,000 plus a "solidarity tax on wealth".
That PSG broke a Ligue 1 record by spending €49m on the Silva was barely commented on, whereas Ibrahimovic's salary has triggered fierce debate. In a sense, Ibrahimovic's arrival is more profitable for the state than Silva, and will bring in more than €10m per year in taxes and social charges. Yet many politicians harshly criticised the deal, declaring themselves "shocked" or "indignant" about it.
These reactions may reflect a French tendency to egalitarianism, especially in times of economic crisis. How could someone possibly deserve to earn such sums? Hollande's first measure after his election was a 30 per cent wage cut for the ministers and himself, which will soon be followed by a cap of €450,000 per year on top executive pay in state-controlled companies.
Ibrahimovic's arrival will help sell Ligue 1 TV rights, but some point out that the Qatari owners' money does not benefit the other French clubs. The director of football Leonardo and coach Ancelotti only shop in Italy, as if the "S" of PSG now stands for "Serie A" – the Argentinean forward Ezequiel Lavezzi from Napoli and young Italian midfielder Marco Verratti from Pescara have also joined PSG.
Given Ibrahimovic is nearly 31 and the total cost of the move for PSG, the expected return on investment is low from a financial point of view. The club's forecast debt for this season is €70m. The financial fair play regulations are already forcing them to generate new income. It means performing well in domestic competitions and the Champions League. With a new stadium planned in the medium term, season ticket prices keep rising – by an average 30 per cent this year.
PSG used to be made fun of because of their lack of consistency or their desperate efforts to be considered as a "big" club. Now, even though they are still despised for their wealth and for representing the capital, they are seen as an almost invincible team. Which, of course, is a mistake. Answering a question about the subject, Hollande, a football enthusiast, pointed out that Montpellier were champions last season without the biggest budget. Matthieu Richard