Sometimes, the big guys do lose.
Saturday evening, big-spending Chelsea saw one of its major targets slip from their grasp, with Javier Pastore spurning the bright lights of London for French club Paris Saint-Germain.
The much-sought after Argentine midfielder stunned the soccer world with a $62 million move from Serie A side Palermo that was first reported by French newspaper L'Equipe . Club officials from both teams confirmed both the move and the fee, with a source telling Italy's Ansa that PSG will be allowed to amortize the cost over three seasons.
The 22-year old, who featured for Argentina during their disappointing run at this year's Copa America, was a major target for Chelsea this off-season, and his signing is a major coup for the Parisian side. Chelsea are desperate for a playmaker to reinforce an aging and battered midfield, especially with Michael Essien out for six months after doing his knee in training. The Blues also look also to have their bid for Tottenham star Luka Modric batted back .
PSG badly needed reinforcements after failing to snap a single piece of hardware. The French team also needed a major morale boost after a 2010-11 season that saw the club plagued by fan violence at Parc Des Princes and stained by the sentencing of two former presidents over transfer irregularities.
What changed was the May takeover of the club by the Qatar Investment Authority, who bought a 70 percent share in one fell swoop and turned the spigots on to make the club a European power. QSI has made a series of big-money moves - picking up Lorient's Kevin Gameiro, Juventus's Moahmed Sissoko and Roma's Jeremy Menez, among others - pouring an estimated $65 million into the marketplace.
But Saturday's deal for Pastore dwarfs all those, and signals the Qataris are serious about making what is already one of France's best-known and most popular clubs a global brand. For comparison, with the deal, QSI has exceeded the money laid out by both Manchester City and Manchester United this off-season.
Pastore, the reigning Serie A Young Player of the Year - and only the third non-Italian to win the award - is seen as a promising but raw talent. A playmaker with a deadly shot, his stock rose this season after scoring 11 goals in 35 games for Palermo while showing off an ability to create space for himself and others that has earned him lofty comparisons.
Agile and visionary, the knock on Pastore has been his slight form. Tall and rangy, he has not shown an ability to consistently hold the ball under physical pressure - a factor which surely played into his decision to avoid the hard-charging Premier League.
Chelsea must now regroup and find another target to replace the injured Essien and shore up Frank Lampard. But they - and all of football - must be looking nervously over their shoulders. As seen at City, the Middle East are now investing heavily in soccer, and the pool of teams aspiring to be champions is growing swiftly. Pastore's move is a signal that French football - long thought to be on the decline - might just be snapping out of its torpor.