Now that our European season is over, the media in France has been mulling over what needs to be done in order for Paris Saint-Germain to compete with the elite. I said after the final-whistle in the Camp Nou back on Tuesday that the failure to bulk up the squad last summer had caught up on us. The Financial Fair Play sanctions were detrimental to our summer dealings and in the end it has bit us on the backside. But, it is not just that that needs to be addressed but a few other matters need to be surveyed ahead of next season.
First and foremost, coach Laurent Blanc deserves at least another year. Others may agree with me, some may not. My readers know that I am a staunch defender of Blanc. I think for a man who was pretty much sixth choice to replace Carlo Ancelotti he could not have done anymore. He guided us to a league and cup last season, not to mention a Trophee des Champions. He has already won two of those trophies again, we are in a Coupe de France Final and our Ligue 1 destiny is in our own hands. Quite simply, he is not appreciated enough.
This seems to be a concern for the man himself according to yesterday’s Le Parisien. The lack of a Sporting Director needs to sorted. Ever since Leonardo left we have never really gone all out to replace him after the sterling work he did. Blanc wants a right-hand man to go to according to the daily. Apparently his relationship with Deputy Sporting Director Oliver Letang is not overly great, with the aforementioned believing the coach is doing what is minimally required of him. Harsh? Fair? In any case that would emphasise the club’s eagerness to prosper in Europe as soon as possible.
Another point I made after the game on Tuesday is that this football club lacks a pedigree in the European Cup – well European competition as a whole. The UEFA Cup Winners Cup is the only title to date which occurred during those heady days of the mid-90’s. Nevertheless, this club is an infant in comparison to the other European juggernauts. It has only been in the game as Paris Saint-Germain for 45-years. We are competing against clubs with an existence more than double that and people tend to forget all this. Three successive quarter-finals in the Champions League, after an initial eight year absence, is not bad at all. It reeks of progress to me. As much as the club desires European success, it will not come over night – especially with FFP constraints.
Blanc was desperately unlucky with injuries and suspensions for the Barca games. When that first-XI is fully fit, it is a match for anyone in Europe. That was proved undisputedly against Chelsea. As I alluded to earlier, that lack of depth/quality in the squad was our downfall. In the first-leg especially we lacked creativity in midfield. And the attackers were pretty much anonymous throughout. An unfit David Luiz was blamed – and he did have a shocker – but come on! He should not have been involved after injuring his hamstring a week before and was initially ruled out for a month.
The coach can only do so much. Yes, he is not known for his tactical nous. His like for like substitutions are a little tedious at times, especially when 90% of the time they fail to make an impact. He has his limitations as a coach, not many would argue with that but he has shown terrific man management skills. He dealt with the whole Edinson Cavani and Ezequiel Lavezzi debacle at the turn of the year with class. He was not one to succumb to player power as he made an example of them with the suspensions. Yet you look at Lavezzi now and his form has got better ever since then. He has got Thiago Motta back on song after a sticky winter, Thiago Silva is back to his best, Javier Pastore has been a catalyst and Lucas Moura has matured into a fundamental member of the team. The coach has played his part in all these aspects.
So what about recruitment? Well after last summer’s kafuffle in the market, the club needs to be shrewd this time around. FFP rulings still apply (sell in order to buy) for at least another season so there will be no mega money signing in comparison to years gone by; e.g Cavani and Luiz. The hierarchy need think rationally about what type of players we need. For me, a new left-winger to replace Lavezzi is a no brainer. We need another striker to support Zlatan Irabhimovic and Edi (two is not enough!). And another holding midfielder as Motta’s legs will be a year older. There are some ageing stars in the squad. Ibra and Maxwell will more than likely depart in the summer of 2016. Motta may be on his way by then as well. I just hope this is all being considered behind the scenes because we will be in trouble if we are not making plans afoot to replace players who have been pivotal since they set foot through the door.
Le Parisien gave their thoughts on who the club is looking at and namedropped five potential targets; Petr Cech (Chelsea, €5m), Ricardo Van Rhijn (Ajax, €7-8m), Sami Khedira (Real Madrid, free), Carlos Bacca (Sevilla, €18-20m) and Memphis Depay (PSV, €20-30m). Then there is of course Kevin De Bruyne of Wolfsburg who is continuously linked; Blanc is a massive fan of the Belgian. Paul Pogba of Juventus is a long term target but FFP means nothing will materialise there. Felipe Anderson of Lazio, Pedro from Barcelona and his teammate Dani Alves are names that are all strongly linked to the Parc des Princes.
You can see the logic with some of the names. Depay replacing for Lavezzi and Khedira coming in to compete with Motta for that anchorman role is a step in the right directon. That is what the club needs to do, be smart with their dealings. And I am sure that lessons will be learnt from last summer where we were put all our eggs in one basket for Angel di Maria – a massive waste of time!
There are flaws in the squad and there are areas that need to be improved. Nevertheless, you cannot disparage the progress which has been made yet again by the football club. Laurent Blanc is on the cusp of leading this team to a French domestic treble. No other club has ever done that in France. It is domestic domination. Yet, if the club deem that as not good enough then a reality check is needed. European success is not going to happen overnight. Look at Chelsea; it took them eight years before they won a European Cup. Manchester City have not even reached the last-eight yet.
There are a few creases to iron out but PSG is still very much on the right track.