PARIS – On a slow-moving last day of transfers in the French league, Paris Saint-Germain predictably stole the headlines by signing midfielder Thiago Motta from Inter Milan to take its season’s spending spree comfortably over €100 million ($143 million).
Other clubs, meanwhile, were scratching around trying to bring players in on loan and could only dream about having the seemingly bottomless funds that PSG’s ambitious Qatari owners, QSI, are providing the ambitious French leader with.
No financial details were given, but reports in France and Italy estimated Motta’s transfer at €10 million ($14.3 million). Motta, who previously played for Barcelona and has played six times for Brazil, also brings valuable experience to a PSG team chasing its first league title since 1994 and which has not played in the Champions League since 2004.
He is new coach Carlo Ancelotti’s third signing of the January transfer window — all three are Brazilians, with central defender Alex joining from Chelsea last week, and left back Maxwell arriving previously from Barcelona.
Motta’s signing will be a relief to PSG’s Brazilian sporting director Leonardo, and help soften the blow of missing out on an even bigger name after deals for strikers Carlos Tevez from Manchester City and Alexandre Pato from AC Milan fell through. PSG also missed out on former England captain David Beckham when he decided to stay with LA Galaxy.
“It’s normal that it’s more difficult to sign someone in Ligue 1 than in Spain or in England, but things can change,” Leonardo said recently.
Far away from the French Capital, PSG’s bitter southern rival Marseille could not afford to sign anyone, let alone someone of Motta’s calibre, and preferred to balance its books by selling one of its best players.
The day after offloading midfielder Lucho Gonzalez to FC Porto, Marseille coach Didier Deschamps ruled out any last-minute signings. Selling Gonzalez saves Marseille €400,000 ($570,000) per month, as he was the club’s highest earner, and helps the team hold onto star striker Loic Remy, who has been closely watched by Tottenham coach Harry Redknapp.
“We won’t sign anyone. We don’t have the capacity to invest, I wasn’t expecting anything,” Deschamps said. “I’m sad he (Gonzalez) has left us.”
Last season, Marseille spent nearly €30 million ($42.8 million) on strikers Andre-Pierre Gignac and Loic Remy but failed to retain its league title.
Seven-time French champion Lyon was for many years one of the biggest spenders in France, but under new coach Remi Garde the club is trying to bring through youth players rather than splash out on big names.
Lyon spent €22 million ($27.8 million) on signing Yoann Gourcuff from Bordeaux last season, but such has been his lack of form that the playmaker is now a reserve and has lost his place in the France team.
Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas is now trying to bring money in, rather than spend, as he tries to fund a new stadium.
Lyon cut its payroll in the off-season by selling Bosnia playmaker Miralem Pjanic to Roma for €11 million ($15.5 million) and France international Jeremy Toulalan to Spanish side Malaga for €10 million ($14 million).
Big names like Michael Essien, Eric Abidal and Karim Benzema no longer grace Lyon’s Stade Gerland.
However, on the positive side of things, that means players like 18-year-old defender Samuel Umtiti; 21-year-old midfielder Clement Grenier and 20-year-old forward Alexandre Lacazette are all getting their chance.
They all played under Garde when he was Lyon’s youth team coach.
Elsewhere, Brest signed Issam Jemaa on loan from Auxerre until the end of the season.
The 24-year-old striker, who has two league goals this season, has scored 27 goals in 60 games for Tunisia and is playing for his country at the African Cup of Nations.
Brest sold star striker Nolan Roux to defending French champion Lille last week and acquired forward Alexandre Alphonse last week from FC Zurich.
Lorient president Loic Fery tried unsuccessfully to sign Gignac on loan. The former France international, who previously played for Lorient, has struggled for form since joining Marseille two seasons ago.
“We would have been glad to welcome Gignac here until the end of the season,” Fery told RMC radio on Tuesday. “Unfortunately we couldn’t do it. The player wants to establish himself at Marseille.”
Auxerre, which is struggling in 18th place in the first division, boosted its midfield by signing Georges Mandjeck from Rennes for a reported fee of €1.5 million ($2.1 million).
The Cameroon midfielder fell out with Rennes coach Frederic Ancelotti after he was substituted after only 36 minutes in a match against Brest in December. Antonetti picked him to play just once more, in the Europa League.
Saint-Etienne signed left back Jonathan Brison from Nancy on a 3 1/2-year deal.
Jerome Pugmire can be reached at www.twitter.com/jeromepugmire