Blanc unfazed at not being PSG’s first choice

PSG's new coach Laurent Blanc has shrugged off suggestions he would be fazed by not being the first choice appointment for the mega-rich French champions. The former French national team manager admitted his new job was a 'difficult challenge'.

Blanc unfazed at not being PSG's first choice
Laurent Blanc alongside PSG President Nasser Al-Khelaifi at THursday's press conference. Photo: Franck Fife/AFP

New Paris Saint-Germain manager Laurent Blanc on Thursday said he was unfazed by not being the first choice to replace Carlo Ancelotti at the French league champions, as the club's owners said Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva were not for sale.

"Yes, the date (of the appointment) was late for me but it's not a problem not to be the first on the list," Blanc told a news conference at the club's Parc des Princes ground in Paris.

"The most important thing is to be picked at the end of the day and that's the case," he added.

Blanc, 47, has been out of a job since leaving his role as France coach after a disappointing Euro 2012 campaign that saw Les Bleus eliminated at the quarter-final stage.

The former defender, who won the World Cup with France in 1998 and European championships in 2000, previously coached Bordeaux, leading them to the Ligue 1 title in 2009.

PSG had been linked to a number of top European managers, including Jose Mourinho, Rafael Benitez and Fabio Capello, before Blanc was appointed earlier this week.

"I'm happy to be here, very proud to be the coach of a club like PSG. I know what's awaiting us. It's an exciting but also a difficult challenge," Blanc told reporters.

"With the staff, we're going to try — I stress 'try' — to meet our goals and entertain."

PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi, for his part said he was confident that with Blanc as coach, the club could "continue on the right path towards its aim – another French league title next season".

"(Sporting director) Leonardo has worked well to get the new coach," he added, thanking in turn departing coach Carlo Ancelotti.

Blanc's appointment coincided with an announcement from Real Madrid that Ancelotti  would replace Mourinho after he left the Santiago Bernabeu for English club Chelsea.

"(Ancelotti) did good work here in the last 18 months. I've got good relations with him. I wish him good luck at Real," Al-Khelaifi said.

The Qatari also quashed rumours that PSG stars Ibrahimovic and Silva could be on their way out.

"Thiago Silva and 'Ibra' are staying," he said, following reports in Spain and Italy that they could head to Barcelona and Juventus respectively.

Juventus effectively closed the door to any Ibrahimovic move by signing Manchester City's Carlos Tevez on Thursday.

PSG have spent 250 million euros on players in the last two seasons but have not yet made any move on the transfer market.

This close season, newly promoted Monaco have dug deep into their pockets, notably signing Colombia forward Radamel Falcao for a reported 60 million

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OPINION: Mbappé’s title, but PSG need to breathe new life into Qatari project

After being the star of France's 2018 World Cup triumph, Kylian Mbappé has been the standout player for Paris Saint-Germain in a Ligue 1 title-winning campaign that has been slightly marred by the manner in which they limped over the line.

OPINION: Mbappé's title, but PSG need to breathe new life into Qatari project
Photos AFP

PSG finally wrapped up the title on Sunday after second-placed Lille failed to beat Toulouse, having not won any of their previous three games when the opportunity to confirm a sixth French crown in seven seasons was there.

The Qatari-owned club can still make it a domestic double, with the French Cup final to come against Rennes next weekend, yet this will not be remembered as a vintage year.

While Neymar once again went missing due to injury at the crucial point, Edinson Cavani has struggled with fitness too, and coach Thomas Tuchel has regularly lashed out at the lack of depth in his squad.

The 5-1 capitulation at Lille a week ago was the worst league result for PSG since Qatar Sports Investments bought the club in 2011, and the first time they had let in five in a league game since 2000.

A record-breaking 14-match winning run with which they started the season now seems like a long time ago, the latest Champions League failure clouding Tuchel's first campaign in charge.

Mbappé, at least, has been a constant, revelling in his status as a World Cup winner and hardly ever being rested. He only turned 20 in December, but has now won three Ligue 1 titles in a row.

Mbappé has 36 goals in 40 games this season, with 30 in the league. And, frighteningly, his team-mate Daniel Alves told RMC recently that “he doesn't realise how good he is, he can go much further”.

He is also not used to losing, and may have upset some of his teammates with his assessment of last week's defeat at Lille. “We played like beginners,” he said.

Hollow ring

To be fair, they have usually been exceptional domestically. However, the problem is that as long as they keep failing in the Champions League, domestic success for a club backed by a Gulf state will continue to ring hollow.

The title has effectively been in the bag for some time, but their season has been winding down ever since their exit against Manchester United in the last 16.

That, combined with being knocked out in the League Cup quarter-finals, means Tuchel in his first season has actually done worse than Unai Emery, his unloved predecessor.

Paris Saint-Germain coach Thomas Tuchel has actually done worse than his predecessor, Unai Emery
However, according to sports daily L'Equipe, Tuchel has agreed to extend his contract to 2021. Thoughts have already turned to the future, with new signings needed at the Parc des Princes.

The costly Neymar experiment cannot be said to have succeeded until he stays fit for the games that matter, and there will always be speculation about his future.

“We have a contract, we're not even halfway through that contract,” Neymar's father pointed out to RMC Sport.

Time for a clear-out? 

Mbappé is the one man they really cannot afford to lose, but is it time for a clear-out elsewhere?

Some of the excitement of the early part of the decade has gone, replaced with a staleness. The days of Thiago Silva, Edinson Cavani and Marco Verratti are maybe ending.

Youri Djorkaeff, a World Cup winner for France and a PSG star in the 1990s, offers a frank assessment, suggesting real change is needed higher up.

“If you're not great in every compartment, from the bus driver to the girls who clean the shirts, you will go nowhere,” he told Ligue 1 Podcast, 'Le Beau Jeu'.

“Paris Saint-Germain, after many years without success, have to rebuild everything, restart from scratch, because the foundations are not good. You cannot expect to one day win the Champions League without these foundations.”

The Qatar project needs a breath of fresh air, and all eyes will be on president Nasser al-Khelaifi and sporting director Antero Henrique.

UEFA's Financial Fair Play rules remain a problem, though, with PSG said to have a hole of around 100 million euros and the need to present a balanced budget by the end of June. The next few months will be interesting.

By Andy Scott/AFP