Arrivederci, Carlo: Ancelotti’s departure leaves PSG in a pickle

With the Italian bound for Spain, the Ligue 1 champions face an uncertain immediate future
By Robin Bairner

Only a matter of days since claiming their first Ligue 1 success in 19 years, Paris Saint-Germain are set to be plunged back into a period of relative uncertainty with the decision of head coach Carlo Ancelotti to leave the club to be Jose Mourinho’s replacement at Real Madrid.

Although PSG have indicated that they want to maintain the Italian’s services, there is little doubt that the mystique of Madrid will ultimately dictate that the decorated former AC Milan boss swaps the French capital for its Spanish counterpart.

It is the first potential crisis point in the reign of QSI over the Ile-de-France outfit.

In charge in Paris for less than 18 months, Ancelotti has made quite an impression on the Parc des Princes side, earning a reputation as something of a favourite of both the fans and players.


Given that his start in Paris was so comparatively slow, he has achieved this against the odds. That he came in to replace Antoine Kombouare when the side were top of the league at Christmas 2011 was controversial, particularly as PSG slipped to second over the ensuing months and lost out on the crown to a Montpellier side commanding just a fraction of the budget.

Much of Ancelotti’s best work, however, was done last summer. He was a major influence in attracting talented young Italy international Marco Verratti to France when Juventus were ready to pounce, plus he was also decisive in luring Thiago Silva.

Such respect from players is priceless when bartering in the transfer market and therefore underpinned the club’s whole campaign.

While the agent of Silva has indicated that his client will not leave Paris in the summer, there can be little doubt his position is more fragile, while Verratti’s fate seems more intertwined with that of the coach.

Ezequiel Lavezzi and Zlatan Ibrahimovic are other players who could potentially depart after only one year if their new boss is not to their taste.

The "project" - as it is inevitably referred to by senior members of PSG's board - is not about to unravel, but there can be little doubt that the departure of the man who won Ligue 1 Coach of the Year jointly with Saint-Etienne boss Christophe Galtier will have an unsettling effect on the squad.

Ancelotti’s side may not have played with any great flair or adventure but the fans appreciated the winning nature of the football he nurtured and the honesty of the coach. This was especially apparent in the Champions League, in which PSG flirted with eliminating Barcelona only to be pushed out on the away goals rule.

Sporting director Leonardo infamously remarked earlier this season that this was a team “more built for Europe” than Le Championnat, but the narrow elimination at the hands of the Catalans seemed to justify this stance, particularly as the Ligue 1 crown was later secured.

Losing the tactical mastermind behind the project can only be seen as a setback, particularly as Monaco look set to invest heavily in the summer and potentially arrive in France’s top division with a squad that can match even PSG’s.

To make matters worse, the contingency plans laid down by president Nasser Al-Khelaifi and his staff seem to have fallen through. A strong push was made for Jose Mourinho only for Chelsea to win the day in that battle, while Arsene Wenger could not be lured away from Arsenal with a year still to run on his contract.

L’Equipe continues to believe that the former Monaco boss remains PSG’s top target, though now for the summer of 2014.

In the meantime, the pickings are slim. Rafael Benitez continues to be heavily linked to the club, but with attractive and potentially longer-term offers arriving from elsewhere, there is no certainty that the Spaniard would go. Leonardo, who has admitted he is not ideally suited to the role of head coach, is another option as a stop-gap measure.

The season is not yet over and already more questions than answers have been raised regarding next term, many of which have been raised by Ancelotti’s impending departure. For the moment, instead of trying to capture world-class playing talent in the summer transfer window, PSG must have their thoughts fully trained on their next coach.

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