This summer Paris Saint Germain took stardom to a whole new level. With all those egos, and all that expectation, can coach Mauricio Pochettino deliver?
Hi, I’m Chloe and this is the Playmaker.
One story every day to make sense of the world of football.
Today… Can Mauricio Pochettino deliver success with the PSG Galacticos?
“Our job is to try to put this type of talent… they are genius… to work like a team, to make the effort without the ball… with the ball they are fantastic… but to feel like we are a real team… that is the challenge for us.”Mauricio Pochettino, BT Sport
Let me start this episode with a book.
It’s called White Angels, and in it, a journalist called John Carlin takes a close look at the transfer of David Beckham to Real Madrid in 2003.
But the book is also about the reasons behind the construction of the “Galacticos” side created by President Florentino Pérez.
Carlin says that Perez had a big idea that, “right from the start of his presidency in the year 2000, that if you bought the best players, the very best, you always won out in the end, because they paid their own way.”
“Real Madrid is a Galactico team… we need Galacticos in Real Madrid. Messi is a Galactico. Cristiano Ronaldo is a Galactico. He’s the best around, the best in the world. I wanna see all the stars. All of them needs to be at Real Madrid. They have very demanding fans, Real Madrid is a very demanding club.”BBC Sport
Using superstar players as marketing tools was a new idea back then, and from a financial standpoint… it worked.
Each year their profits grew. Real Madrid the football team quickly became Real Madrid the global brand.
John Carlin says Pérez was “altering the whole conception of the game.”
And the blueprint Pérez created has now been copied by many clubs.
But this summer saw Paris Saint Germain take it to a whole new level. They already boasted a squad containing some of the world’s best players.
Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, Sergio Ramos and co. are all genuine stars, but it has to be said that the capture of Lionel Messi is the ultimate “Galactico” signing.
With those big-money moves and superstar egos comes huge pressure for the man who has to handle them all. Now, Mauricio Pochettino is the man who not only needs to win, but to entertain the fans while doing so.
The Coach is slap bang in the middle of this all-star cast. Pochettino has to pull all of this talent into a cohesive unit, all while playing attractive football and winning trophies.
Yet Poch – as he’s known – only has a French League cup and France’s version of a Charity Shield in the cabinet as a Coach. He’ll be under an intense spotlight from day one, and under immense pressure to deliver.
It’s not like he’s done this before, either.
Pochettino built his reputation at Tottenham, taking his side to second place in the Premier League in 2016/17. That was the club’s highest finish in 54 years. In 2019, he led Spurs to their first ever Champions League final, where they ultimately lost to Liverpool.
“And amid the celebrations, we should spare a thought for Tottenham, who have given us a magic carpet ride of drama and emotions on the way to the final… but they were nothing like their old selves tonight, were they, Jermaine? No, they weren’t. But I think we need to remember, Fletch that, those players, they’ve done their club proud.”Darren Fletcher & Jermaine Jenas, BT Sport
If you’re Spurs, these are fabulous accomplishments. If you’re PSG, second place means you’re the first loser.
And second place is where PSG finished in the Ligue 1 table last season under Pochettino. They’d previously won the title in seven of the last eight campaigns, finishing top in the last three of those.
Now that Messi has arrived, that simply won’t do. Messi is a serial winner, and he has La Liga titles, four Champions League trophies and six Ballon d’Or awards under his belt.
And let’s face it, PSG don’t have a Real Madrid or a Ronaldo to do battle with like Messi has done throughout his career.
“The record six-time Ballon d’Or winner is set to play alongside Kylian Mbappe and his former Barca team-mate Neymar, in what will surely be the most fearsome attack in world football.”BBC News
What troubles me and no doubt many others is how a man, who’s undoubtedly a good coach, but who has won far less trophies than his superstar players, is going to manage the pressure that will be coming at him from every conceivable angle.
The simple fact is that when you have a team of Galacticos, they have the power. They are the club’s biggest assets.
And the fans, the club owners and the wider football world will expect nothing less than a Champions League win. Real Madrid did that and still sacked managers.
If things go well, Lionel Messi will get the credit. But if things go wrong, we all know that it will be Mauricio Pochettino who gets the blame.
Today’s episode was written by me Chloe Beresford, and produced by Klong.