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The news came out of the blue, it was a shock and Paris Saint-Germain has lost another key personnel in Leonardo who announced his resignation as director of football yesterday – leaving his post at the end of August. It is a huge blow to the football club losing a man, who may have not always been ethically correct but did so much good in terms of putting PSG on the map.
No doubt that his 13-month ban for shoving referee Alexandre Castro has played a part in his decision. The Brazilian felt the punishment was unjust and extremely unfair, considering the ban was extended despite an appeal. In truth, it most definitely is, considering how minor other punishments are for greater offences but he did put himself in that situation. It is an example of the kind of meddling in team matters that narked Carlo Ancelotti during his tenure.
His persistent presence in the dressing room at half-time when things were not going right in the first 45-minutes of games sent out the wrong vibe, particularly with president Nasser Al-Khelaifi in tow. Ancelotti felt undermined by that, despite him and Leo having had a strong bond before things started to turn a little sour. The lure of Real Madrid is as great as anything in world football and Carlo was not immune to it, he wanted to go. But even though the Italian will not admit it publicly his relationship with the club’s hierarchy started to nose dive, particularly with Leonardo . He felt there was a lack of respect at times.
Some of Leo’s comments to the media raised a few eyebrows too, especially after a defeat to Reims back in March when he said; “If we analyse the situation, we can say that we are not made to play these types of games. We’re not made for games like that, we’re a team made to play in Europe. PSG is for Europe, not for France.”
It was a ludicrous statement that sent out the wrong message, making excuses and it was utterly disrespectful to France’s top league. He was not always flavour of the month in the country either, particularly with Lyon president Jean Michel-Aulas who he endured a frosty relationship with, especially after Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s alleged stamp on Dejan Lovren last December. Aulas, who felt Ibra’s stamp was deliberate, was met with this response by Leo; “Aulas, who is he to judge? All he wants is to distract from the poor performance of his team.” Handbags have been rife between those two.
Nevertheless, despite his flaws, he was still a superb director of football. If he undertook his role as he should, kept his business off the pitch and in the boardroom I would probably not be writing this article about his departure.
When he arrived in the summer of 2011 from Internazioale it was met as some sort of coup, not just for PSG but for football in France in general. Big name, who opted to leave a huge European club in Inter for a new venture in Paris. Straight away with QSI’s backing, he got the wheels in motion to bring in the likes of Mohamed Sissoko, Blaise Matuidi, Jeremy Menez, Kevin Gameiro and Salvatore Sirigu. Who could forget the ripples the club made with the signing of Javier Pastore by smashing (at the time) the French transfer record to lure him from Palermo. Leo was instrumental in that deal transpiring. His links in Italy allowed him to entice their top talent to the Parc des Princes and it would be naïve to think that the club could have done that without him. He was able to sell the club to potential players and more often than not he would always succeed. He is an excellent negotiator and just by what he has achieved in the game commands respect from fellow professionals. After all, he helped oversee deals for Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva from a juggernaut in world football, AC Milan. No easy feat by any means.
Had it not been for him, would Ancelotti have come to the club? Probably not. Carlo himself said at the time that it took some consideration for him to take the job, not out of disrespect to the club but at that time the QSI project was still young. It was a little bit of the unknown. That is where Leonardo again would have come in and convinced Ancelotti that Paris was the place to be. He had a very good relationship with the Italian during their time together in Milan and those Italian links – as they always have – blossomed majestically.
Quite frankly, Les Parisiens will find it extremely difficult to find a replacement. Leo may not have been everyone’s cup of tea but it when it came down to it, not many have the playing career, all round CV and skills as a master negotiator to be a top director of football. He had his flaws as I mentioned. He got too involved in team affairs but PSG will miss him and I think the club realise that too, particularly Al-Khelaifi who he has had a very good relationship with.
He should be applauded for the good work he has done. He was there at the very beginning 25-months ago when QSI obtained the majority share of the club from Colony Capital. He helped lay the first bricks which culminated in Paris Saint-Germain becoming champions of France for the first time in 19-years.
Best of luck Leo.