After taking Tottenham from Europa League dwellers to the Champions League final, it seemed as if Mauricio Pochettino had passed a five-year long audition to impress Europe’s super-clubs.
At the height of Spurs’ rise, the Argentine was heavily linked with moves to Real Madrid and Manchester United. One year after his sacking in north London, he agreed to take charge of Paris Saint-Germain, tasked with winning the Champions League – quite a different remit to what was asked of him in his other jobs.
They reached the semi-finals in his first half-season in charge, dumping Barcelona and holders Bayern Munich out along the way. But after one impressive half of football out of four against Man City, PSG caved in on themselves.
Pochettino was also unable to make up the gap to Lille in Ligue 1, losing out on what is usually a guaranteed title. Still, he did end the season with two trophies.
After Lionel Messi’s blockbuster signing, the world watched in wonder at how PSG would fare this time around. Though they’ve only lost once in all competitions this season, the signs have not been promising.
Part of PSG’s problems on the pitch actually stem from their trio of stars – Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe. In an ideal world, each of them is playing in a support role just off the main striker, relieved of defensive responsibilities. That naturally goes against the philosophy of a coach who lives and dies by pressing.
For all of their years of spending and the social media posts lauding them for their clean sweep of ‘free transfers’ this summer, PSG lack a rather important profile – an actual centre-forward to set the tempo.
Mauro Icardi is far too limited, and Mbappe just isn’t a traditional striker. This has left them looking far too toothless in games.
Despite an impressive win over Man City in midweek, it was hardly a vintage PSG performance, with many remarking that they were playing a 7-0-3 formation.
Pochettino, a man who believes in the collective, probably won’t be the man to get these stars to co-exist. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he did because he’s a world class manager and the trio have quality in abundance, but the signs suggest PSG need someone who views football in a different way to lead them.
Zinedine Zidane is the most obvious example of that kind of manager. Carlo Ancelotti, too, both so-called ‘diva whisperers’.
Pochettino might forever be suited to having to punch up rather than down, and he’s running out of time to prove otherwise.