The Mauricio Pochettino & PSG marriage might be over
Reports from France suggest that Mauricio Pochettino will leave PSG at the end of the campaign. The 49-year-old is struggling to impose his style on the team. He has spent a year in Paris and picked up his first titles in France, but there has not been any improvement on the team since Thomas Tuchel left. Recently, PSG were knocked out of the French Cup by Nice in penalties, and despite leading the Ligue 1 table, they have made a reputation of playing badly and winning games in the dying minute. They have lost that air of superiority around them. Rumors of Kylian Mbappe leaving for Real Madrid this summer will not help the mood either. Reports suggest that Pochettino is unhappy in France and would rather be back in England. They also state that he does not enjoy a good relationship with Sporting Director Leonardo.
That’s now two world-class managers that do not like working with Leonardo since he took over from Antero Henrique. PSG and beIN Sports group chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi also doesn’t enjoy working with Leonardo. How does he still have a job?
Their unbalanced squad is scaring top managers
Before Manchester United brought in Ralf Rangnick, there were suggestions Poch would leave PSG to return to England. The reports were credible. PSG had eyes for Zinedine Zidane as his replacement, but the former Real Madrid boss rejected them, forcing them to stick with Poch. This is still one of the main reasons PSG have not let Pochettino leave. Zidane believes the squad is unbalanced and does not want the herculean job of balancing it. Too many egos to deal with.
He is absolutely right about the unbalanced squad. PSG’s midfield options are an eyesore for a team that wants to win the UEFA Champions League. Their only world-class midfielder is Marco Verratti, and he struggles to stay fit for half the games of the season. For someone that coached Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, and Casemiro at Real Madrid, this is not an option. Their lack of quality in midfield makes ball progression terrible. Neymar, Mbappe, and Lionel Messi have to drop deep to pick up the ball. Danilo Pereira having to anchor the midfield makes things even worse. The Portuguese midfielder lacks the composure required to perform in that position at a high level. It is no wonder Tuchel played him in defense and Marquinhos in midfield.
There are other glaring gaps in the squad. Despite Neymar, Mbappe, Lionel Messi, and Angel di Maria as creators, they do not have a world-class striker within their ranks. Mauro Icardi is lifeless outside the box, making him a liability to the team. His linkup play is nonexistent. Even though his goal-to-game ratio is actually very decent, his flaws as a striker stick out like a sore thumb when he is on the pitch. They have in Gianluigi Donnarumma and Keylor Navas two world-class goalkeepers. Their central defense is also good. However, their starting full-back options (Nuno Mendes & Achraf Hakimi) played their last season at wing-back positions in a back three. These recruitment mishaps have made the PSG squad unbalanced. You can understand why it is difficult for coaches to find this job appealing.
Leonardo is not exactly exciting to work with too
The reports also suggest that Zidane does not want to work with Leonardo. The former AC Milan player, sporting director, and manager is a tough case to crack. Despite the midfield problems PSG faced last summer, he brought in the declining Gini Wijnaldum. Aurelien Tchouameni, Boubacar Kamara, Houssem, Aouar, Maxence Caqueret, Bruno Guimaraes, Teji Savanier, Benjamin Bourigeaud, Renato Sanches, Eduardo Camavinga, and Benjamin Andre were all playing in France at the time before he went for the former Liverpool midfielder. With the number of talents littering Ligue 1, he still has an affinity for the Serie A market. Sergej Milinkovic-Savic remains a target for him. Even when Tuchel made it obvious he would not like to make the loan deal for Icardi permanent, Leonardo shelled 50 million Euros on the striker.
Don’t get this wrong, there have been some successes. Club captain Marquinhos came from AS Roma, and Hakimi can still explode, but why not strengthen from within Ligue 1?
His handling of Edinson Cavani‘s departure was disgusting, considering that the Uruguayan is the club’s top scorer of all time. He was forced out of the squad, leaving Tuchel with Icardi and Jean-Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting as their striking options during their UCL run. When Tuchel was desperate for Kingsley Boateng, he fumbled that deal and left the manager with the inexperienced Thilo Kehrer. He has shown no inclination towards balancing the messy squad he has built. How on earth did Julian Draxler get a new contract? How has he not been able to shift Layvin Kurzawa? PSG’s midfield options are not up to scratch, and there is no reliable striker in the squad. The sporting director should be answering for this mess.
Until the squad imbalance is addressed top coaches like Zidane will avoid this job like a plague. Anyone that accepts it will continue to struggle.
Pochettino can save his head!
The former Tottenham boss has picked up two cups, and a Ligue 1 title should follow at the end of the campaign. After that, he should look to rebuild himself elsewhere. Maybe United is the job for him. With Rangnick handling the sporting affairs, he could build United into title challengers again. His aggressive style of play is suited to the rough and tumble of the Premier League. It also matches the high-octane football that Rangnick is famed for. The football marriage looks good on paper, but the reality is never certain.