Everything must change! Everything will change ! At Paris-Saint-Germain, it is now the official mantra. After the new failure recorded in the Champions League – elimination in the round of 16 by Real Madrid in March – and a championship season certainly sealed by a new title, but not very convincing in terms of the game and sometimes a little chaotic, the management of the capital’s football club raised his voice.
“Maybe we should change the slogan. “Dream Bigger” [“rêvons plus grand”], that’s good, but today, we must above all be realistic. We don’t want flashy, bling-bling anymore, it’s the end of glitter, “ said Nasser Al-Khelaïfi, the president of PSG, in an interview with Parisianon June 22, as soon as the 2021-2022 page is turned.
With Ligue 1 resuming its rights from Friday August 5, and a first match for them on Saturday evening, in Clermont-Ferrand, the time has now come for the Parisians to provide proof that this change of era is indeed a reality.
Two men were responsible for embodying him: the Portuguese Luis Campos and the Frenchman Christophe Galtier, respectively new “soccer adviser” and new coach. They succeeded Leonardo and Mauricio Pochettino, both dismissed at the end of last season. In Paris, Luis Campos and Christophe Galtier are rebuilding a couple that had worked well in Lille: they had reshaped LOSC there, leading the club to the national title, ahead of… PSG, at the end of the 2020-2021 season.
But Lille is not Paris (and vice versa). If Christophe Galtier, 55, former coach of AS Saint-Etienne, LOSC then OGC Nice (where he had a contrasting 2021-2022 season), is recognized in France as a brilliant coach, he’s never had to deal with such a large assembly of egos before.
Even if he assured, upon his arrival at the beginning of July, that with him it would be “The collective first, no compromise”, remains to be seen whether the club management will give him the power to enforce his authority. Which has not always been the case for its predecessors. “I just like football. And at a club like this, it’s not always just football.” confided Thomas Tuchel in December 2020, a few days before his dismissal.
The unsuccessful quest for the Champions League
In addition, Christophe Galtier has not had the slightest victory in the Champions League: the only campaign he has led in continental competition – with Lille – turned into a fiasco (no wins, one draw and five defeats in 2019 -2020). However, the Champions League is the unfinished quest since 2011 and the entry of the club into the bosom of Qatar Sports Investments.
For more than a decade, billions have been invested, superstars have succeeded, but there has still not been a European coronation. Worse, the Champions League seems to cause major “blockages” among Parisian players, as evidenced by Real Madrid’s elimination last season: when they won 1-0 in the first leg, they were beaten 3-1 in the second leg, conceding three goals in seventeen minutes, in a scenario reminiscent of the “raised” inflicted by Barcelona in 2017 and Manchester United in 2019.
One of the first decisions of the new PSG management team could be to tackle this ‘blockage’. This summer, the club would have decided to set up a psychological follow-up of its players. “PSG has been thinking about it since the slap received against Real Madrid. A full-time psychologist could thus be recruited”announced The Team, in its July 25 issue. Solicited by The world, the club “does not confirm the information”without bringing any formal denial.
There are “so many things around football, so many things in the head, that it is not easy to keep the concentration for more than ninety minutes”, tried to explain Leonardo, on June 16, in an interview with The Teamabout these “raised”. Or how to evoke the mental aspect without naming it.
“Of course there is a trauma”, notes Denis Troch, mental trainer in high-level sport, particularly in Ligue 1. “ Even if you want to forget these fears, these fears, there will be journalists who will remind you that you lost against Real, Manchester United and Barça. You have to protect yourself from that, it can be learned, “ continues the former coach, 1994 French champion with PSG as Arthur Jorge’s assistant.
Denis Troch confides that he had been approached to carry out mental preparation work with PSG shortly before the “raised” at Camp Nou, in 2017. But that was not done. “I think that after that match, they didn’t want to show their flaws,” he explains.
Christophe Galtier is open on this aspect: he works with a mental trainer. “I am surely one of the few to talk about mental preparation, to have someone to lean on to unload a lot of things”he said in a podcast of The Teamin March 2021.
Working with a reduced workforce
The stated desire of Parisian leaders to “dream smaller” also applies to recruitment. Previous seasons have shown that the “big names” do not always meet the needs of the team, starting with the seven-time Argentinian Ballon d’Or Lionel Messi, whose first season fell short of expectations.
If PSG has extended the contract of its best player – and ambassador – Kylian Mbappé until 2025, the arrival of defender Nordi Mukiele (24), recruited 12 million euros from RB Leipzig (Germany), and that of the attacker Hugo Ekitike (20), from Reims (loan with option to buy), are less flashy than those, in the summer of 2021, of Lionel Messi, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Sergio Ramos or Achraf Hakimi.
The club also invested more than 40 million euros to attract midfielder Vitinha (22, who played for FC Porto) and paid around 15 million euros for playmaker Renato Sanches, who played for Lille. These Portuguese internationals are both represented by Jorge Mendes, an agent close to Luis Campos. “Campos is someone who always works one step ahead. It’s important for PSG, who used to make last-minute moves in the transfer window.underlines Eric Rabesandratana, a former PSG player, now a consultant at the microphone of France Bleu.
It remains for the club to settle the question of departures. Another problem that he has never really been able to manage in recent years during the transfer window, the players piling up in layers. Before going to play a series of friendly matches in Japan in July, Christophe Galtier declared his desire to work with a reduced workforce.
For what effect? Not invited for this tour in Japan, defenders Layvin Kurzawa and Thilo Kehrer, midfielders Rafinha, Ander Herrera, Julian Draxler and Georginio Wijnaldum are among the “undesirables”. For the time being, apart from the latter, loaned to AS Roma for a season with an option to buy, none of these other high-salary players have yet been sold and they train in a separate group from the main squad at Camp des Loges. For them, “the end of the sequins” started to make sense.
Kylian Mbappé package
We will have to wait a little longer before seeing Kylian Mbappé return to the field. The PSG striker, injured in the adductors, is forfeited for the trip to Clermont, Saturday at the opening of Ligue 1. He “will remain in care at the training center. A new point will be made in 72 hours”, the club said. As during the Champions Trophy, won against Nantes on Sunday July 31 (4-0), he should be replaced by the Spaniard Pablo Sarabia.