Messi, Neymar and the 10 worst PSG transfers of all time

Robin Bairner
Robin Bairner
  • 29 Feb 2024 22:43 GMT
  • 7 min read
Neymar, Lionel Messi, PSG, 2022/23
© ProShots

Paris Saint-Germain quickly became one of the richest clubs in European football when the club was bought over by QSI in 2012.

However, as many clubs across the continent can attest to, money is no guarantee of success and while PSG have made some big signings through the years - Neymar and Kylian Mbappe being two shining examples - they've also made a number of mistakes too.

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The Parisian club have frequently had to entice players to the French league by paying over the odds and that has often meant PSG have been left with some pretty expensive flops in recent years.

Here are the 10 worst deals of the last 25 years.

READ: PSG are already better without Messi and Neymar

Lionel Messi and Neymar 'went through hell' at PSG, according to the latter
© ProShots - Lionel Messi and Neymar 'went through hell' at PSG, according to the latter

Neymar – €222m from Barcelona, 2017

PSG annihilated the world's transfer record when they signed Neymar in 2017, and if you only look at the stats, it appears to have been a great transfer. 118 goals and 77 assists in 173 games are an outrageous return, but upon closer inspection, it becomes evident what a waste of money this signing actually was.

The fact that he only played 173 games in six years should raise eyebrows. Indeed, only once during his time in Paris did Neymar play more than 20 Ligue 1 games in a season. Injury struggles, off-field issues, spats with star boy Kylian Mbappe and the fact that he could not deliver what he was bought for - the Champions League - mean that the world's most expensive transfer was a flop. PSG did recoup €90m when they sold him to Al-Hilal in 2023 but the fee did not outweigh the disappointment of Neymar's time in Paris.

Lionel Messi – free from Barcelona, 2021

Lionel Messi, arguably the greatest player to ever grace this planet, arrived in Paris on a free transfer after Barcelona were unable to offer him a new deal due to their financial problems.

With Neymar failing to get the French giants over the hump in Europe, Messi was expected to finally bring the Champions League trophy to Paris. But, like his former Barcelona teammate, he failed to get the job done. The Argentine World Cup winner never settled in France and despite putting up amazing numbers - 32 goals and 35 assists in 75 games - Messi and PSG agreed it was time to go separate ways after just two seasons, with the legendary forward moving to Inter Miami.

Gianluigi Buffon – free from Juventus, 2018

One of the greatest goalkeepers of all time and arguably the best of the 21st century spent an unhappy 2018/19 season at PSG that will go down as a forgettable footnote on an otherwise formidable career.

Despite his outstanding reputation, Buffon struggled to look like the world-class performer that he undoubtedly was. Indeed, his fumble of a Marcus Rashford shot sparked Manchester United’s unlikely Champions League last-16 comeback.

It is worth noting that he was hampered by head coach Thomas Tuchel, who insisted on rotating him regularly with Alphonse Areola. It was a ploy that led to neither performing well.

Julian Draxler – €42m from Wolfsburg, 2017

Julian Draxler never managed to live up to the hype
© ProShots - Julian Draxler never managed to live up to the hype

PSG hoped they might be able to resurrect Julian Draxler’s career when they spent lavishly to sign him from Wolfsburg in 2017. Draxler had shown prodigious talent with Schalke only to go off the rails somewhat at their Bundesliga rivals.

It was for his potential that PSG would ultimately pay around €42 million for the attacking midfielder. After a bright start – he would score 10 goals in his first 25 games – Draxler failed to hold down a regular place in the squad and more often was reduced to a substitute or a player drafted in because of injuries.

After a loan stint at Benfica, he departed for Qatar in a controversial move that saw PSG in hot water over concerns that the Gulf State was spending over the odds to help their French club balance the books.

Goncalo Guedes – €30m from Benfica, 2017

PSG believed they were signing one of the best prospects in the world game when they moved for Goncalo Guedes in January 2017, but like so many deals done in the winter period, they overpaid for a player who failed to deliver.

Having arrived for €30 million, he was out of the door by September on a loan move for Valencia. In Spain, at least, he managed to impress to such a degree he was linked to Barcelona. That PSG ultimately received €40m for him softened the blow of his failure to perform at Parc des Princes.

Jese – €25m from Real Madrid, 2016

This is a contender for one of the worst transfer deals of all time.

Although Jese had shown promise in his early years with Real Madrid, his career had been seriously hampered by two long-term injury problems and he had rarely shown anything like his best form when PSG decided to pick him up for €25 million.

It looked like bad business on PSG’s part but proved spectacularly bad business as Jese played just nine Ligue 1 games in his first full season at the club and returned a single goal, a penalty.

The rest of his PSG stay was spent on a series of loan deals. Stints in the Spanish second tier, Turkey, Italy and Brazil followed.

Thilo Kehrer – €28m from Schalke, 2018

When Thilo Kehrer signed for PSG in the summer of 2018 from Schalke, he was considered to be one of the next big things in German football. As it turned out, he never was.

Kehrer failed to establish himself either at centre or right-back and was a player that PSG fans feared to see in their lineup. For €37 million, he represented a colossal waste of money and he eventually joined West Ham in 2022 for just €12m, where he managed to somewhat improve his reputation.

Sergio Ramos - free from Real Madrid, 2021

In the summer of 2021, PSG had one of the most high-profile transfer windows in history, signing Messi, Georginio Wijnaldum, Gianluigi Donnarumma and Sergio Ramos for free.

Though Wijnaldum disappointed, at least he played a decent amount of games. Ramos, on the other hand, was a complete disaster.

Injury issues meant that the Spaniard has made just eight league starts in his debut season and when you consider that he was on a reported €12m a year, his contributions were very, very expensive. The Spaniard left in 2023 to return to boyhood club Sevilla after several months as a free agent.

Grzegorz Krychowiak – €27.5m from Sevilla, 2016

The 2016/17 season really was a dreadful transfer campaign for PSG. Not only did they sign Draxler and Guedes lavishly in the winter and Jese in the summer, they also added Grzegorz Krychowiak to that list.

In theory, his addition should not have been the catastrophe that it was. The Poland international spent much of his career in France before a successful stint at Sevilla, where he had worked under PSG boss Unai Emery.

He was hindered by injury problems, but ultimately the sheer competition for places was too much for him and he was named ‘Flop of the Season’ by Le Figaro amidst some pretty stiff competition.

David Luiz – €50m from Chelsea, 2014

While David Luiz might not have (always) been the calamity figure that he was portrayed as, the deal that brought the Brazilian defender from Chelsea in the summer of 2014 was an expensive one from PSG’s perspective as they spent €50m on him.

It was a world record deal for the defender when it was made, and the amount by which they had overpaid was highlighted two years later as he returned to Chelsea for almost half as much.

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