On the occasion of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, the most famous of Qataris in France, the president of PSG Nasser Al-Khelaïfi, gave a long interview to Rothen ignites on RMC. Integral maintenance.
Jerome Rothen: Hello president, nice to have you on my show. It is a pleasure for me, a PSG lover, to receive you.
Nasser Al-Khelaïfi: Thank you, it’s an honor for us. I’m glad you’re here.
JR: We are a little sad that it is already ending because this World Cup has passed quickly. What is your view on this World Cup? It is a pride for you?
NAK: We talked before this World Cup, we wanted to organize the best World Cup in history. I’m Qatari too and I’m very proud when I see the stadiums, the matches, the quality of the game too, for the supporters, the media too. It’s something wonderful for us. And we too are sad because there are only two games left. But it was an experience… Me, I always said that the best sporting event where I was was Euro 2004 in Portugal…
JR: Good thing I was there…
NAK: It was for me, the best for football, the experience, the fans, but now it’s not 2004 anymore, it’s 2022, this World Cup was a magnificent experience and I don’t know what I could have done more. I watched seven games in less than 48 hours, I had never been able to do that before, it’s a wonderful experience.
JR: We feel that you are very proud, it shows. What are you most proud of? From this enthusiasm for this World Cup, in terms of facilities? Because we are talking about stadiums, cleanliness, safety…
NAK: You know Jérôme, the media asked a lot of questions about the 2022 World Cup, I always answered: I’m not from the organization. I am not part of the organizing committee, I have nothing to do with it, but I want to say one thing: all Qataris, and even non-Qataris who live in Qatar, we were all the organizers of this World Cup, and that is something unique. Before the World Cup, all the media criticized Qatar, the bad World Cup… And after people came and now what I hear from all the media, it’s very positive. We see that the Qataris are not bad people. We offered our heart, our country for everyone. It is our culture. A media said to me “Are you like this all the time or just for the World Cup? But no, before the World Cup, after, we stay the same. And that was very special to me. We are only 350,000 Qataris, we are not many but we are proud of our country and of what we have done. I think it was a perfect World Cup. There are still two games left and I hope everything will go well, but it was a very high level World Cup.
Nasser Al-Khelaïfi: “My second country is France”
Jean-Louis Tourre: If you are not part of the organizing committee of the World Cup, one of your jobs is president of PSG. Two days before France-Argentina, does the president you are have the dream final between Messi and Mbappé?
NAK: I had three players in the semi-finals with Achraf Hakimi. Today I have the two best players in the world, Kylian and Leo Messi. Each scored five goals. PSG scored 13 goals, we are the best club in this World Cup. In the quarter-finals, there was the highest number of Ligue 1 players with the Premier League. In French football, we have great players, great teams.
JLT: And you will be for France?
NAK: Of course, my club is French, my second country is France, but also, I have a player in Argentina, Messi, and this is the last World Cup for him. Kylian is the only PSG player who plays two finals in a row. That’s wonderful. I can’t wait to be in this final, because it’s a great pleasure for me. I hope it will be France, but Argentina also had a good World Cup, with Leo… If I could I would give it to both.
JR: Like that president, you are quiet, it’s 50/50….
NAK: And if we look at this World Cup, what Morocco did… Because yes, Qatar is a small country, but if we did this World Cup, it’s for the whole Middle East, the Arab world . Look, when Morocco plays, the stadium is full. During the quarter-final, more than 82% of the population of Morocco watched this match. It’s something incredible. The Middle East deserved to host a World Cup.
JR: You talk about atmosphere and that also created a craze. Me, I’m lucky to be there and to see a lot of matches because the stadiums are very close together. And for some teams, Mexico, Argentina, Morocco, the atmosphere was crazy…
NAK: Yes, even Saudi Arabia, Tunisia… This World Cup wrote something unique, it brought everyone together: this World Cup brought people closer together, even from a political point of view. Bringing people together is the goal of football and politics cannot do that.
JR: These are the values of football and sport in general. And to go beyond that, when you see the infrastructure, the facilities, the magnificent stadiums… We can’t just stop at the World Cup. There is not another big competition you want to organize?
JLT: The Olympics for example?
NAK: I am not in a position to say yes or no. But in 2024 there will be the Asian Cup here. There will also be the Arab Cup… there are a lot of things in Qatar. For me, it’s the city of sport in the Middle East. We were talking about the Lusail stadium, for me it is really magnificent, it is the most beautiful stadium in the world. 84,000 people capacity plus boxes. As Qataris, we are proud of all stadiums…
JLT: But could it be the next dream, the Olympic Games?
NAK: The Qataris, we have limitless dreams, it’s another culture, another ambition, but I can’t talk about that, it’s not my position.
JR: President, we were talking about Mbappé and Messi, it’s a source of pride for you and that’s normal, and for us French people, it’s fantastic to still be in the final. But there is a third, because at PSG there are three stars, it’s Neymar, were you sad for him?
NAK: The truth, I was very sad. As a supporter, I wanted to watch Brazil-Argentina, like you, we were waiting for this match, but really I was very sad, I know everything he did to come back when he was injured. For me, Brazil was one of the best teams here. Neymar did the maximum, even more than the maximum. Even with us, he had a great start to the club season. I hope to see him come back… It’s not easy for him. I spoke with him, I spoke with the coaches, about morale. I spoke with him, he was sad, very sad. I spoke with his father too. It’s very hard for him.
JLT: On Lionel Messi, seeing his World Cup, do you have a priority to extend it? He is at the end of his contract next June with PSG…
NAK: If we both want him to extend, he’ll stay. We thought we would talk after the World Cup. I confirm a thousand times that he is very happy with the club, he is having a very good season. I think he wants to stay.
JLT: Ah well, it will be done then, if you want him to stay and he wants to stay…
NAK: We’ll see, there’s one game left.
JR: And you have no doubt that Kylian is also in the game, he is under contract…
NAK: Exactly. He has a contract. Kylian is really one of the best players today, he’s a great player and as a human being, he’s a magnificent person.
JR: During this World Cup, there were revelations, players caught your eye. Is there a possibility of seeing some of them in the winter transfer window to strengthen the group?
NAK: It depends on the injuries today. This transfer window is difficult for us. You can’t say “we want to sign”. For us, we don’t want to sign someone. But we are not targeting a player but if we have an opportunity, why not.
Nasser al-Khelaïfi: “What is the value of the Parc des Princes without PSG? Zero.”
JR: We also talked a lot about the Parc des Princes… You made a media outing, it caused a lot of talk. For me, who is attached to PSG, imagining PSG leaving the Parc des Princes is something that is hard to imagine. We received the deputy mayor on the show, he seems very open to me.
NAK: Why is he not coming today with us. I’m going to tell you something Jerome, and I hope this is the last time I’m going to talk about this subject. For me, option 1 is to stay at the Parc des Princes. Option 2: stay at the Parc des Princes. Option 3: stay at the Parc des Princes. But if the mayor of Paris or the city of Paris doesn’t want us to stay, doesn’t want to do something for us… It’s as if you invite me to your show but I don’t come in. I don’t want to talk about that too, but I know it’s a hot topic for the media. We are investing in the stadium. For Euro 2016, we paid something very important. We have invested more than 80 million in the stadium. We do the maximum with the capacity we have in the stadium. Thirdly, we have a match two or three years ago, Jean-Claude Blanc calls me and says: “we have a problem with the Parc des Princes.” It only says the roof can fall. We blocked two thousand seats so that people wouldn’t come because it was dangerous. Safety is most important to me. We don’t want to put 500 or 600 million in another stadium. For us the most important thing is the ground. We don’t want to make money with this stadium, we don’t want to make a shopping mall. What is the value of the Parc des Princes without PSG? Zero. Yes, I say it directly. And when they tell me 350, I don’t know what, it’s not my problem, if you want to go shopping, buildings, real estate, apartments maybe but for us, it’s just the sport. What have we done for the city of Paris? How many people come to watch Kylian, Messi and Neymar? What tax did we pay? Taxes? we did a lot.
JLT: You want to be respected a little more.
NAK: Exactly. That’s what we’re asking. Me, I have a lot of respect for the mayor of Paris. I have a very good relationship with her. But I ask that the city of Paris also respect us.
JLT: Do you think it will work out?
NAK: I hope so, but we’re looking at the options. With financial fair play… All the big clubs have stadiums with 60, 65, 80,000 seats. There, we reach a maximum, we can not do more.
JLT: Just one last question, yesterday something very important happened for the future of world football, it is the opinion of European justice on the conflict between UEFA and certain clubs, Real, el Barça, Juve who wanted to create a Super League. You were one of the opponents of this reform. You are the president of the ECA, the association of clubs. What happened yesterday is a big victory for you?
NAK: I don’t want to say big win, because I’m waiting for the decision. For me it is not a surprise, it is logical. For me, playing the Super League with three clubs is impossible. We are happy with this opinion from the Advocate General of course, but I am awaiting the decision.