Jamie Whitehead looks at a club in self-afflicted crisis.
The managerial merry-go-round is a staple point once the European football calendar reaches the summer months, and I make every apology for my tabloid, cliché ridden introduction to this.
Twelve months ago Paris Saint Germain were cruelly pipped to the Ligue 1 title by Montpellier. In a swift PR move, QSI, the club’s Qatari owners were quick to play down the significance of this, stating that establishing them on the European stage was a more important objective than domestic success, setting a three-year time limit on brining the club it’s third Ligue 1 title.
A year on and following the arrivals (and departure) of David Beckham, Zlatan Ibrahimović and Thiago Silva, Manager Carlo Ancelotti delivered the prize the owners claimed was off less importance. It’s also worth noting that Les Rouges et Blues had a succesful continental campaign, which culminated in a European Cup quarter final defeat at the hands of Barcelona, although it should be noted that that the Parisians didn’t lose to the Catalans during one hundred and eighty minutes of football. In European terms, it can be described as a successful season.
But what now? Once Jose Mourinho’s exit from Real Madrid was confirmed, there was always going to be speculation as to who was going to replace him. Carlo Ancelotti was firmly put in place as the favourite, and although he still holds the hotseat in Paris, the rumour mill on his replacement is already in full swing.
If rumours are to be believed, and at this point it must be stressed that these are just rumours, PSG have already spoken with or expressed an interest in Rafael Benitez, Roberto Mancini, Michael Laudrop and are now looking at Tottenham coach Andre Villas-Boas as a short term appointment before installing Arsene Wenger as a long term option.
From an outsider’s perspective, it’s all getting a little embarrassing for PSG now. The club has always struggled on the global stage due to it’s only recent formation in 1970, and some poor decisions from senior management from the late 90s to the early 00’s. The club also finds itself in a unique position of not having a major cross city rivalry. Marseille and Lyon are hundreds of miles away. It’s not a situation which bodes well when trying to make an impact on the global stage.
The situation at PSG bears many similarities to that of Manchester City before Sheikh Mansour changed the skyline of east Manchester forever. City, for all their size, stature and massive support, could not claim to be anywhere near their Salford based neighbours prior to that crazy day in August 2008. Sensible management has allowed City to ascend to the higher echelons of the English game as well as secure a future not just for themselves, but for the area in which they reside.
PSG should be aiming for the same. Whereas not having a local rival could prove problematic on the field, off it it could be a blessing in disguise. With no local rival to worry about, tapping into the local market really shouldn’t be a problem.
Any manager’s head would always be turned by Real Madrid. Although the lifespan there is short, it would be un-natural for Ancelotti not to consider it. Again, how this is dealt with will show the world how PSG is to be managed in the future. It was originally stated that Los Blancos would need to pay a €2 million release clause to gain the services of Ancelotti, which was then announced he would pay himself so he could be unveiled on his birthday. Word coming from St Germain now is that this is now a release clause of €7.5 million. Topping off from this the club are now looking at spending £10 million on releasing Villas-Boas from his contract at Tottenham Hotspur, as well as breaking the world transfer record with an £85 million bid for Gareth Bale.
It’s obvious that money is not of concern when we talk about a modern-day Paris Saint Germain. The problem that lies is how far Ligue 1 lies behind the rest of Europe. Since Marseille won the European Cup in 1993, the French league has fallen behind La Liga, the Bundesliga, Serie A and the Premier League. Monaco’s lavish spending and low tax laws could see an increase in foreign ownership should their project turn out to be a success. Ligue 1 could now just be experiencing what the Premier League experienced ten years ago with the likes of the Glazers, Abramovich, et al.
The vacant managerial position will need to be filled quickly in Paris. It doesn’t fill the club in public relations glory if they are constantly getting turned down by managers. The knock on effects of this could mean that players would lose interest in joining the club such is the message flying out of the doors at the Parc des Princes.
Which is strange, because to a player, PSG are now a very attractive proposition. Champions League football will be pretty much a given for them for the next few years, money is clearly no object and Paris is a wonderful place to live. A previous article I wrote for this site suggested Ligue 1 could become a European equivalent of the MLS, and one hopes that does not turn out to be the case.
It’s not unusual to see a club talk to a manager before eventually deciding on someone else. However, what we are accustomed to seeing is one manager talking with a club and then another being bought in for the final decision to be made. Why aren’t PSG proving a popular destination?
Established managers such as Benitez probably don’t feel the need to take on the the challenge PSG brings. Benitez’s move to Italy perfectly reflects where he is in his career now. His time at Chelsea, which you can’t argue was not a success, has put him in a strong position to kick on from the UEFA Cup win and a team like Napoli, a huge name in football not quite living up to its former glories sounds somewhat familiar to him, doesn’t it?
For Mancini it would just be a case of repeating what he did at City. The clubs are more similar than either would care to admit. With many a strong character in the squad (and Ibrahimović) as well as the strong possibility that he may not actually sign the players, it probably would have all ended nastily for him.
Laudrop was a fantastic football player, but as a manager finds himself in the adolescence of his career. It can’t be doubted he’s done a great job for Swansea City, but the pressure in Paris will be huge, and so that’ve may not feel ready to take what is, quite literally, a giant leap into the unknown.
If Villas-Boas is to be a short term appointment, it sets a bad precident to any other prospective candidates. If it is known you will only be a short term appointment, it’s going to be harder to attract the top name you want.
On the plus side, the club are looking at the right types of manager. Managers that could take the club forward. It might however be in there best interests to do their business behind closed doors.
What started out with PSG becoming like a continental Manchester City could end up with them being simply a French Chelsea. Which for the club, players and supporters, nobody would see as ideal.
Perhaps PSG are still struggling to find their feet on the big stage? Perhaps they are like the new kid at school with the sparkly trainers who everyone wants to be friends with but secretly think is cool. Before all the talk of Ronaldo and Rooney really begins, they need to get there man first. On a long term contract, ideally.
Jamie Whitehead is a Broadcast Journalist for the BBC World Service