PSG firmly in the pantheon

The last two seasons may have tested the patience of the fans, but Paris Saint-Germain remain one of the most prestigious outfits in French football. Along with Stade de Reims, Saint-Etienne, Olympique Marseille and Girondins Bordeaux, the capital side have at times captured the imagination of the entire country.

As PSG set about attempting to return to the forefront of the French and European game, looks back at the major events in the club's short history.

Birth of an institution
Despite currently being Ligue 1's longest tenants after an uninterrupted 34-year spell, PSG are one of the top flight's youngest teams in absolute terms. Compared to 136-year-old veterans Le Havre, 129-year-old Bordeaux or even 109-year-old Marseille, the Parc des Princes side are relative adolescents, in fact.

Established on 12 August 1970 after a merger between Stade Saint-Germain and a group of investors united under the banner of virtual club Paris FC, PSG have always represented both Paris and nearby Saint-Germain-en-Laye. And with so many people eager to see a big club wearing the capital's colours once again, the nascent team grew at a stunning pace early on.

Top-tier status was attained within four years and by the end of the 1970s, the Red-and-Blues were ready to embark upon a historic decade. With charismatic presidents Daniel Hechter and, later, Francis Borelli setting the tone, the likes of Carlos Bianchi, Mustapha Dahleb, Safet Susic and Luis Fernandez became the club's first stars, followed closely behind by its first titles. PSG tasted French Cup honours in 1982 and 1983, before capturing their first league crown in 1986 - breakthroughs that opened the doors to Europe and some memorable encounters, particularly with Juventus in 1983 and 1989.

Golden age
As significant as those successes were, however, the 1990s proved even more fruitful, with PSG entering a golden age after television giants Canal+ bought the club in May 1991. Now enjoying serious investment, the capital outfit were able to set their sights steadily higher.

Two seasons later, the Parc des Princes welcomed back UEFA Cup football in what would prove to be an unforgettable campaign given the calibre of opponent: PAOK, Napoli, Anderlecht and Real Madrid all fell by the wayside before PSG once again succumbed to their bête noire, Juventus, in the last four.

That defeat notwithstanding, the club were on the move and between 1992 and 1998 they contested two UEFA Cup Winners' Cup finals – winning in 1996 – reached the UEFA Champions League semi-finals once and twice advanced to the same stage of the UEFA Cup.

On the domestic scene, results were just as satisfying, with PSG celebrating another Ligue 1 title, three French Cups, two French League Cups and just as many French Trophy of Champions wins.

At the time, the players lighting up the Parc were also mainstays of their national sides. Bernard Lama, Alain Roche, Paul Le Guen, Vincent Guerin, David Ginola and Youri Djorkaeff all enjoyed stints with France, while Ricardo, Valdo, Rai and Leonardo were regulars for Brazil. But perhaps the greatest talent of all was prolific Liberian marksman George Weah, who followed in the footsteps of PSG's many fine strikers by firing 55 goals in 137 games.

To the considerable chagrin of the club's supporters, PSG have never threatened to hit those same heights since. Three more trophies have been landed and the Parc des Princes faithful got to marvel at the likes of Marco Simone, Jay-Jay Okocha, Nicolas Anelka, Ronaldinho, Gabriel Heinze, Juan Pablo Sorin, Mario Yepes and Pedro Pauleta, but crisis has never lain far away. Indeed, the last two seasons were spent staving off relegations that were only very narrowly avoided.

Installed in January 2007, coach Paul Le Guen has made it his mission to rebuild PSG folllowing their sale by Canal+. Some astute summer trading brought proven campaigners Claude Makelele, Ludovic Giuly and Mateja Kezman to the capital, and they have added their experience to a young and humble core of players including Mamadou Sakho, Clement Chantome, Younousse Sankhare and Guillaume Hoarau. Together, the new-look side appears to have what it takes to make the club a fixture in the top eight rungs on the Ligue 1 ladder – but, of course, nothing at PSG is ever as easy as it looks.

The stadium
Officially opened on 4 June 1972, the Parc des Princes has always been somewhat ahead of its time. As a result, while the rest of France launches itself into a programme of stadium renovations, the ground based in Porte de Saint-Cloud still stands up well to current standards. It was also home to the French national team until the Stade de France arrived on the scene.

Conceived by architect Roger Taillibert and built all in own piece from concrete, the Parc has been said to resemble a washbowl, with its capacity for resonating supporters' chants making it such an atmospheric venue. On particularly electric nights, it is even possible to feel the stadium ripple beneath your feet as thousands of fans jump up and down. Capable of seating 48,712, the Parc des Princes has enjoyed average attendances of 43,000 this term, and it is also used to host concerts on occasion.

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16 Oct 2008