Club football will understandably take a back seat for the next month or so as France gears up for the start of the European Championships this Friday. Nevertheless, PSG’s President Nasser Al-Khelaifi has got tongues wagging in Paris over the weekend after a revealing interview with Le Parisien.
The president said that ‘big changes’ will occur this summer and did not confirm or deny if this will include the dismissal of coach Laurent Blanc. It was a strikingly frank interview where he said that the season just gone – despite our retention of the domestic quadruple – was somewhat of a failure due to our quarter-final exit in the Champions League.
Now, it is no secret that the club harbours a dream of lifting the cup with the big ears but Al-Khelaifi was holding nothing back with his answers. He also revealed that he had a feeling we would lose against City in the second-leg of that ¼ final due to the demeanour of the players. Whether or not this was a dig at Laurent Blanc is unclear, but the answer came via a question from the interviewer Laurent Perrin about Blanc’s perceived leniency towards the players.
I have said countless times, the coach will ultimately be judged by performances in Europe. The victory over Chelsea in the last-16 for the past two seasons saw Blanc’s stock rise in the face of adversity – particularly in 2015 when he was being written off. But, that defeat at the Etihad has left a bitter taste in the higher echelons of the club. They felt, particularly Al-Khelaifi, that we had a golden opportunity to go for the jugular and book a place in the semi-final. Our performance in Manchester was dreadful. There is no doubt about that! And it has not gone unnoticed by the man at the top.
Al-Khelaifi admits that the elimination is difficult for him to accept – calling it the first big failure of his time at the club. It’s quite a damming admission but not a surprising one (maybe more so because he has admitted it publicly). But, Europe is the holy grail for him and the club.
Are we at the level of the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich? Of course not. Not yet anyway. Still, there was an opportunity for us to be amongst them had we overcome City. That is Al-Khelaifi’s biggest gripe and it appears to be one he is holding against the coach.
During that interview he quite simply said; ‘we should have been in the (Champions League) final’. Again, holding nothing back with his answers and kudos to Mr Perrin conducting the interview. It was a revealing one that has left many people affiliated with the club scratching their heads as to what will occur during the summer.
We have lost our talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic. As much as we adore the big man, he is now part of the club’s history. We need to look ahead to the future and what that entails will be a lot more clearer during the summer months.
Watch this space! And, it could potentially include the return of Leonardo which would be fantastic!