by Michael Slaughter
Given that Ligue 1 gives way to the Coupe de France this weekend, it seemed reasonable enough to have a closer look at the potential poisoned chalice that new PSG boss Carlo Ancelotti has inherited at the Parc des Princes. Whilst any Man City or Chelsea fan will be aware of what the joys are of having your club taken over by people with bottomless pockets, so to speak, I’m sure that any realistic fans of these clubs know what the dangers are as well.
When the Qatar Investment Authority took control of Paris Saint-Germain in May last year, it seemed that the club may finally start challenging for the championship again, after having had a few years out of the running at the top. Former coach Antoine Kombouaré was settled in and doing a reasonably good job, having got the club to two successive Coupe de France finals, winning one of them in 2010, but a real title charge still eluded them. Last season, despite limited resources, PSG finished a respectable 4th place and this new investment into the team was certainly a big boost, allowing Kombouaré to sign players intelligently over the summer. There was real steel added to the midfield and defence with the signings of former Liverpool destroyer Momo Sissoko from Juventus and Uruguayan captain Diego Lugano for a mere €3million. Perhaps even more importantly, PSG flexed their financial muscles to outbid Chelsea for the Argentinian Javier Pastore, who went for somewhere between €39-42million. However, after a bright start to the season, Kombouaré was sacked at end of last month after PSG went out of both the Europa league and French league cup in quick succession, despite being top of the league.
So far, he has made at least one shrewd signing in out-of-favour Barcelona full-back Maxwell.
Ancelotti will know all about being sacked unfairly by rich owners after being fired after two seasons at Chelsea despite winning the club’s first ever league and cup double. It seems odd, to me at least, that Ancelotti would want to step back into very familiar territory at his new club, as it seems that anything less than winning everything available will only lead to him getting the sack. It certainly isn’t odd that PSG would want him, however, as he is a manager with an excellent record, and he probably was the best coach without job up until a few weeks ago, but was a change really needed? Although they may have gone out Europe at an early stage, they were, and still are, top of league with a reasonably comfortable three point lead over Montpellier and a seven point lead over defending champions Lille, and as far as I’m aware, Kombouaré was still popular with the fans. Perhaps director of football Leonardo wanted his former coach from his Milan days back, or maybe, as with Mark Hughes at Manchester City, the board simply didn’t see Kombouaré as enough of a draw to bring in the biggest names. Either way, it was very harsh to at least not let him see out the rest of the season, when the league campaign was going so well.
An interesting point that now arises as to how Ancelotti decides to strengthen an already strong squad in this transfer window and over the summer (assuming he doesn’t get shafted if he doesn’t win some silverware). So far, he has made at least one shrewd signing in out-of-favour Barcelona full-back Maxwell. Despite being 30 now, he is, if nothing else experienced at winning, having won 7 league titles in three different countries over the course of his career. But, at Chelsea, the wheels seemed to come off for Ancelotti when an overpriced, overrated striker was forced upon him in Fernando Torres, but it looks as though he may again be about to splash out on another risky player. Today, the club have been linked with want-away cry baby Carlos Tevez, and I’m not sure that going in for the Argentine would be the smartest move. There’s no guarantee that he’ll still be the player he was after spending the last few months fannying around anywhere but Manchester, and it’s almost a certainty that he’ll get bored and want to move on in about 18 months’ time. I guess he could be seen as a short term solution, as PSG haven’t been all that clinical in finishing the numerous chances they seem to make, but do they really need someone who will no doubt cause massive disruption in the dressing room somewhere down the line?
What’s the point in planning for the future when in all probability, he’ll end up getting the sack after a couple of seasons anyway.
But therein lies the true problem Ancelotti faces. What’s the point in planning for the future when in all probability, he’ll end up getting the sack after a couple of seasons anyway. A lot of Chelsea fans I know would much prefer that Ancelotti hadn’t been sacked, and they all fear that current manager Andre Villas-Boas probably won’t last much longer than this season as well. For the sake of PSG and their fans, I hope that their new owners realise that the best way to achieve prolonged success is not by chopping and changing the manager every year, or by signing anyone who may have a decent 6 months at their current club, but by giving a manager time to build a team, not a team of 11 superstars, but a coherent unit that play for each other and that will only come with time. Assuming Ancelotti is given the time he needs, I’m sure he’ll be a success, and he’ll probably end up a league champion this year, but only because of the foundations laid by Kombouaré in his time as manager.
Although I’m usually entirely wrong with predictions, the situation at PSG will either go to one of these two extremes. Best case scenario, the massive investment in the club ushers in a new dawn of unprecedented success, as PSG win title after title for many years to come. Worst case scenario, and also the most likely scenario, the club buy some short term success, but a merry-go-round of managers ensures that glory only lasts in short-bursts and inevitably the new owners get bored, and leave the club in a financial mess. We’ll have to wait and see what unfolds, but I suspect that Ancelotti probably won’t be living in the French capital in a couple of year’s time.