Thursday, June 30, 2022

PSG target Christophe Galtier as Mauricio Pochettino’s successor; Al-Khelaifi says he ‘never spoke’ to Zidane

Paris Saint-Germain should move forward under Christophe Galtier’s command after the French tactician was targeted by the Ligue 1 champions as their new head coach after Mauricio Pochettino was dismissed by the capital club. Zinedine Zidane was the top choice for PSG’s Qatari owners but does not want to potentially miss out on the France national team post if Didier Deschamps’ role becomes available at the end of this year following the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

“I love Zidane,” PSG Chairman and CEO Nasser Al-Khelaifi told Le Parisien on Tuesday. “He was a fantastic player with incredible class. An exceptional coach too with three Champions League wins. I will tell you something, though, and that is that we never spoke with him — neither directly nor indirectly. Many clubs are interested in him as well as national teams. We have never discussed with him. We have not made our choice yet. There is a shortlist, and we are speaking with Nice — that is no secret. I hope that we will find an agreement quickly. However, I respect Nice and their president [Jean-Pierre] Rivere as everyone defends their own interests.”

Like Laurent Blanc before him, Galtier is expected to arrive at Parc des Princes knowing that he was not necessarily first choice, but his compatriot remains Les Parisiens’ longest serving boss under Qatar Sports Investments’ (QSI) reign so far and the most successful in terms of silverware. The 55-year-old from Marseille — the home of PSG’s bitter rivals Olympique de Marseille and a former player across two separate spells and assistant coach — has one Ligue 1 and one Coupe de la Ligue title to his name as well as three manager of the year crowns, just like Blanc. However, Galtier won the 2020-21 Championnat title up against Qatar-owned PSG while Blanc’s Girondins de Bordeaux success came back in 2009 before the fallen giants’ heartbreaking decline which could see them drop lower than the second tier this summer.

To reduce Galtier’s achievements to simply two domestic titles would be foolish as his feats have been relative to each of the clubs he has overseen — eight years at AS Saint-Etienne is impressive as much because of their consistency despite budgetary limits as the 2013 Coupe de la Ligue win. With Lille OSC, Galtier’s initial task was to save the club from relegation post-Marcelo Bielsa before getting them upwardly mobile and eventually beating PSG to the Ligue 1 title in a fashion like the success enjoyed under AS Monaco back in 2017.

The common theme in those two non-PSG French titles was Luis Campos overseeing the construction of each sporting project with Leonardo Jardim in Monaco and Galtier LOSC in Lille. It is little surprise then that the Portuguese transfer guru was so keen to work with the Frenchman again. It feels a little bit one of those “if you cannot beat them join them” situations, but domestic success against PSG is so increasingly rare that it takes a special tactician and set of players to create the consistency needed to finish ahead of such a juggernaut. Galtier has found that consistency multiple times and proven himself a capable squad builder who can forge strong collective unity which is what PSG will hope that he can do here and the fact that the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic have recognized him as a worthy adversary bodes well.

There are significant questions over Galtier’s track record in the UEFA Champions League with no major success on the continental stage to point to, but even that was not enough for Pochettino once he was through the door despite his past as team captain. Something which Galtier brings to the table which should serve him well is his ability to deal with the press given that he has almost appeared to be a better spokesman for the club from afar than predecessors Pochettino and Thomas Tuchel when they were in the role.

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Make no mistake, there is an element of risk involved on PSG’s side and this is a massive challenge for Galtier after the early disintegration of Nice’s ambitious project around him, but he certainly has the credentials given his past 10 years or so in Ligue 1. The first few months of this new era for PSG will be crucial and could shape whether Galtier and Campos will sink or swim in the challenging Parc des Princes environment which has claimed Leonardo for a second time and now Pochettino in the pursuit of Champions League glory.

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