Paris United is probably a name that you’ve heard in recent months. Run by two individuals who up until this point have remained anonymous, they created a Twitter account to break PSG-related news before France’s biggest outlets. They achieved exactly that, making a huge splash in European media by being the first source to break the transfers of Neymar and Kylian Mbappé to the capital across the globe. We sat down 10 days ago with one of the founders, an individual who goes simply by the name of “Dida”.
Over the summer, the Paris United account made a name for itself breaking transfer news. How did you experience this on your side?
For me it was both good and bad… On the whole, honestly, I’m enjoying it. I didn’t think it would build up such a big reputation and that all our information would go on to be confirmed. But then again, I’m not asking for anything in return, I’m doing this for the fans and for the PSG community. So I’m very happy with it, I’m satisfied with the group.
So when you started out, you weren’t imagining it would get this big?
Not at all, at the start the aim was just for me and a friend to start up a group to transmit information about PSG rather than to end up one day being picked up in the media, even abroad, and to be followed by some of the biggest stars.
We’re now a respected source, though what’s a shame is that other media outlets take our information and put their own spin on it. When we publish something, the next day they’ll take it and use it themselves. That’s what happened with the Mbappé story, once we came out with the info they changed their stance on the story.
Twitter accounts are known to be fairly untrustworthy when it comes to transfer news, how is it that you stand out and get it right?
We don’t have any sources within the club. But for this type of information, you don’t necessarily need a source from the inside, it can come from a friend, for example. There are external sources.
What do you have in mind for the future of the account?
We set up a website three weeks ago and we’ve got an app coming out soon. I’m trying to build up Paris United so that it becomes a more recognised outlet and to eventually be among the media players – we’ve shown that we’re amongst the 50 most renowned media outlets in Europe. I want people to talk about Paris United like they talk about L’Équipe and Le Parisien.
What can we expect from the January window?
There won’t be as much madness in the winter transfer window. On our side we’ll keep doing the same thing. For our news we post it on Twitter alongside a picture of the player. We never get ahead of ourselves and post only when our sources confirm that it’s done. For PSG, we haven’t got any information yet, it is 3 months away, but you can expect a calmer window this time round – we won’t be buying Ronaldo or Messi.
What did you think overall of PSG’s summer window?
I thought it was extraordinary. 3 days before the Neymar transfer someone on Twitter was telling me they were worried for PSG, I told them to not worry, the ‘storm’ was coming. For Neymar I’ve known since last July that he wanted to come, that there’d been contacts for a while with his people. But a transfer window like this was necessary, especially after last season’s one – although it has to be said that last year was a transition year. They thought that with a few bargain players they would go up a level and they were wrong – last’s year’s players were sold or demoted to the reserves. It’s the best transfer window of the Qatar era so far, even one of the best of all time.
What have you made of Antero Henrique’s work?
He’s the man for the job. He’s the right guy for them for PSG to trust. He’s known worldwide in his domain and has so many big names in his contact book – we’re seeing that now with Pini Zahavi, who’s one of his best friends. Without him there would have been neither Neymar nor Mbappé.
Although with Neymar I’m not as certain since we wanted him to come last year. We can thank Maxwell as well for the arrival of Dani Alves and Brazilians there in general. He plays a very big role at PSG. When we found out in January that Maxwell would be a Sporting Director of some kind, we put it up on online as soon as possible. He will be a fantastic Director, and works well with Henrique. Henrique’s arrival was a good one, but Maxwell’s transition from player to director really was a great coup from the club.
Can PSG expect a better season than last year then?
Nothing is certain. I’m disappointed that we didn’t buy a number 6, a type of player that was important to get. If Verratti were to injure himself, we’d wind up with Nkunku in the middle – no disrespect to him. Motta and Rabiot might have worked against Metz, but if we played Real Madrid with a midfield of Motta, Rabiot and Nkunku things could quickly go wrong. But we can expect a great season from PSG, and that’ll be thanks to a guy that people like to criticise in Unai Emery.
I’m telling you, he is someone who first of all is a very good manager and has an extraordinary love for football, but it’s also thanks to him that this calibre of player is coming to PSG. Tactically, he’s great – you’ll see, come January his team will be a war machine.
Last season’s Champions League exit was partly his fault, he’s the one who set up the team and motivated the players, but the reality is that all the players were scared, everyone saw that. How can you win 4-0 then lose 1-6? He’s not the one who was playing, he can’t do anything there. His plan was the same for both games, it’s just that the players were too afraid to do that. Obviously he took all the criticism, but it wasn’t his fault – one match he’s a God, the next he’s the worst manager, that doesn’t make sense. People find it easy to criticise him because he’s not Ancelotti or Guardiola.
But when Mourinho started at Porto, he wasn’t a big name either. Emery is still a young manager who’s coming off the back of 3 great seasons at Sevilla winning 3 Europa Leagues – you can’t forget that, no other manager has been able to do that. Now he’s come to PSG and he’s gone up a level. For me he’s in the top 5 best coaches in the world. He just needs time to build his team and find his system.
Mbappé, Neymar and Cavani won’t click together just like that. But for me, he’s a genius. He’s a manager who breathes football. There aren’t many like him, and that’s why Nasser likes him a lot. When Emery went to see Mbappé in Bondy, he said things to him that no other manager could tell him. That’s why he came. Granted, I would give anything for Ancelotti to come back but I have faith in Emery. No one else beat Barcelona 4-0, no one.
You mentioned Pini Zahavi earlier, is the fact that these negotiations went through thanks to him?
It’s not mainly thanks to him, but you have to take into account that he’s always 10 years ahead of everyone – he’s the guy who taught Raiola and Mendes everything they know. He may have facilitated things, but it’s not thanks to him.
Then again, as I’ve said in my tweets, he got cases moving forward. When I’m talking with Zahavi, I’m not talking to your average Parisian agent off the street. He’s the guy who got Abramovich to buy Chelsea instead of Manchester United, who negotiated the transfers of Jaap Stam, Van Bronckhorst and Ashley Cole. He’s less of a player’s agent and more of a player owner. When he gets involved in a case, it’s not as an agent, it’s to be the owner of the player. But it’s mainly down to the Directors that the transfers went through, especially Maxwell.
His influence at PSG does coincide with your own rise at Paris United…
I guess it does, we had a lot of leads where we were told that Pini Zahavi is on the Mbappé transfer, of course, because we don’t have many people on that information. The moment I saw that things were getting serious for us was when Maxwell was announced as a director. That’s what changed everything, as well as the Verratti story, where we announced that he had been injured even though the training session was behind closed doors.
It’s not necessarily off the back of transfer related tweets that Paris United got recognised. But then we had the balls to announce that Neymar was signing, 3 weeks before it happened. Mbappé, we announced on the 10th August, and he signed on the 31st. Even if in the meantime certain outlets were reporting otherwise, we stood firm on our information. We never go back on what we say. We take pride in the fact that we are talked about in Brasil, or on Sky Sports.
To announce the Mbappé deal so early, you must have trusted your sources then.
Yes, but it has to be said that the transfer was not an easy one. First of all, he’s an 18-year-old kid. Secondly, lots of clubs were in for him even if there were never any negotiations with Real Madrid. His contract was really the top standard and there were only 4 clubs that Mbappé could choose: City, Chelsea, Barcelona and PSG. Mbappé’s entourage never held negotiations with Real – Monaco negotiated with them behind his back. But it was a complicated transfer, but as soon as we put up the first info in May, that there was a first offer for him, we knew that Mbappé would be Parisian.
Our info doesn’t come from Mbappé’s entourage. We have our sources. The world is a small place, you know, you can end up knowing a guy who knows a guy who can tell you something.
But it’s remarkable that you get the information long before other reputed outlets.
It’s true that they’re lagging behind us, very far behind. But as you know, you don’t reveal your sources. But Paris can rest easy, there’s no mole at PSG, I don’t know anyone at the club. I’m even thinking of revealing myself in a short while, so the people at PSG will see that they don’t know me. One day I might step out of anonymity. Maybe after the January window, I don’t know. If I have the opportunity to do so, I would. I’ve got nothing to fear, I’m not doing anything illegal or bad. Why should Le Parisien have their info before us?
Even if it might bother PSG, I think they’re saying to themselves that what we’re doing isn’t all that bad. We stand out from the rags that are L’Equipe and Le Parisien. Even if on the one hand they’re annoyed and want to know who we are, it does increase interest in PSG and give the club more credibility. When people see PSG news on our account, it gives a certain credibility to them.
But wouldn’t people give more credence to something they see in the papers than something on Twitter?
So you would say the balance is less tipped towards the papers now?
Yes, since PSG United has gone up in everyone’s estimation I don’t think anyone buys L’Equipe anymore or Le Parisien, because they hate PSG. Nobody wants to buy those rags anymore. Even if they have their own sources, since we’ve started they’ve been taking our information. We put up something, the next day they ‘confirm’ it. It feels like they rely on us for their news and use us as a source. But it’s the same with Sky too, not just the French media.
We can never replace L’Equipe though, they’re known worldwide. At the start we never wanted to make the news. Maybe one day we’ll get there, but L’Equipe and Le Parisien are still far ahead.
Do you owe your popularity to social media, Twitter especially?
Of course. We also have a Facebook page, so maybe we could have gone through that. But we would have never reached this level without Twitter. Now with the launch of our site, we have well-written articles and it makes people want to follow Paris United.