PSG’s Champions League obsession is disrupting Ligue 1 plans, while Mbappe ‘wants OUT in January’ and is picking fights with Neymar and the manager… even with Messi hitting form, Galtier is facing the SAME issues that got Pochettino the sack
- Christophe Galtier has enjoyed an undefeated start to life at Paris Saint-Germain
- But the cracks have started to show after successive draws to Benfica and Reims
- The boss is starting to struggle with the same problems as Mauricio Pochettino
- Kylian Mbappe’s contract is stifling Galtier’s authority in the PSG dressing room
- Mbappe ‘wants to leave PSG in January’ with his relationship there ‘completely broken’
- Nasser Al-Khelaifi’s ‘obsession’ with the Champions League is breeding pressure
- In-form star Lionel Messi will miss PSG’s clash against Benfica through injury
With a glut of superstars to coach, a war chest of investment to splurge and beautiful city to relocate to, the Paris Saint-Germain job seems one of the most attractive managerial prospects in world football at first glance.
But if Mauricio Pochettino’s experience is anything to go by, PSG is nothing more than a poisoned chalice: managers feel pressure from above, with the board holding an ‘obsession’ towards winning the Champions League, and pressure from below, with players such as Kylian Mbappe chiming in about how best to run the club.
For Christophe Galtier, who took over following Pochettino’s sacking in July, whispers of unrest have already bubbled towards the surface, even though the French giants remain unbeaten in all competitions so far this campaign.
The cracks are starting to show for Christophe Galtier (right) after two-straight draws at PSG
The French champions are preparing to take on Benfica in the Champions League on Tuesday
Following two disappointing draws on the spin – a 1-1 encounter with Benfica and 0-0 stalemate at Reims – PSG superstar Kylian Mbappe took to social media to criticise the manager.
The 23-year-old previously voiced to the media that he would prefer to play alongside or behind a central striker such as international team-mate Olivier Giroud, rather than as the target man.
Having been deployed once again as the lone centre-forward against Reims, Mbappe posted the disapproving phrase ‘#pivotgang’ on Instagram to describe the tactical configuration of PSG’s front three, before quickly deleting the story.
Although it is one of the best problems in world football to have to solve, Galtier must somehow find a way to keep his superstar trio of Mbappe, Lionel Messi and Neymar happy whilst also performing fruitfully on the pitch.
And if commanding a dressing room full of mega-earners was not enough of a challenge, the PSG head coach must also carefully navigate the intentions of president Nasser Al-Khelaifi, who is exceptionally active in the club’s affairs on the pitch and within the dressing room.
Mauricio Pochettino was axed by the Parc des Princes chiefs in August despite winning Ligue 1
Au revoir, Kylian?
According to reports in Spain on Tuesday afternoon, Mbappe sensationally wants to quit Paris Saint-Germain in January as his relationship with the French club is ‘completely broken’ – but he will only be allowed to join Liverpool.
Spanish newspaper Marca has reported that Mbappe told PSG he wanted to leave in July amid significant interest from Real Madrid, who bid £154million for the 23-year-old in the summer.
But Marca said that PSG will not agree to any deal with the Spanish giants, leaving Liverpool as one of his only feasible options.
According to the publication, PSG agreed to work on Mbappe’s departure provided it met certain conditions, including that a move to the Bernabeu be off the table.
With Galtier having only been in the job for two months, this report is another thing he could do without to his growing list of problems.
Kylian Mbappe reportedly wants to leave Paris Saint-Germain in the January window
Mbappe’s contract fosters a hierarchy complex
The Frenchman’s shock signing of a three-year contract this summer changed the hierarchical dynamic at the Parc des Princes, as it handed Mbappe a supreme level of control beyond his actions on the pitch.
On top of the reported €100million (£88m) signing bonus and €50m-per-year (£44m) salary, Mbappe took on a meaningful role in PSG’s wider decision-making.
In essence, the 23-year-old can now make recruitment demands to transfer expert Luis Campos and tactics requests to Galtier.
Mbappe signed a lucrative extension and now has a say in the club’s wider decisions
Pochettino spoke openly about the difficulties of uniting PSG’s dressing room during his reign in the French capital, and it seems issues will only have heightened following Mbappe’s unique contract extension.
In March, after the PSG squad reportedly split into cliques behind the scenes -between French speakers and South Americans – the Argentine urged that the dressing room needed to come together.
Following the French giants’ miserable Champions League exit to Real Madrid, Pochettino said: ‘We have to find the best way to work together. That means understanding we need to align our ideas, our project, our methods.
‘There are lots of questions which need to be looked at so that staff like us and a club like PSG have similar ideas and visions.’
The Frenchman’s relationship with Neymar has reportedly ‘gone from cool to polar’ at the club
But the cracks seem to have widened since Mbappe’s renewed deal, especially between the Frenchman and Brazilian international Neymar.
According to L’Equipe, their relationship ‘has gone from cool to polar’ both on and off the pitch.
Neymar ‘has been left astonished by the influence the 23-year-old France striker has been given’, the French newspaper has reported.
And this fractious relationship has started to cause Galtier issues on the pitch: the pair have scored just once between them in PSG’s last four fixtures in all competitions.
In-form Lionel Messi is set to miss PSG’s Champions League clash with Benfica through injury
PSG’s Champions League hang-up breeds unrest
Shortly after losing his place at the helm, Pochettino insisted the French club were ‘obsessed’ by winning the Champions League, and that this desperation impeded success in other competitions.
Pochettino said in August: ‘Everything is focused on the Champions League and sometimes that distracts a bit and that requirement seems to only exist in the Champions League preview and in other competitions it seems like PSG’s superiority.
‘The obsession is the Champions League and everything that is not winning the Champions League is synonymous with failure.’
Pochettino thinks PSG and Nasser Al-Khelaifi have an ‘obsession’ with the Champions League
Although PSG are undefeated in the tournament so far under Galtier, the French champions have looked less than convincing since their impressive 2-1 win against Juventus in the opening round.
PSG first went behind against Maccabi Haifa before rescuing a victory and then drew 1-1 with Benfica in a stilted attacking performance.
To make matters worse, Galtier’s in-form superstar Messi, who has eight goals and eight assists in 13 appearances this season, has been ruled out of PSG’s clash against Benfica on Tuesday through injury.
In a bid to please the Parc des Princes chiefs and prioritise the Champions League, Galtier felt compelled to rest key players against Reims at the weekend, which prompted a drab 0-0 draw as a result.
Galtier shuffled the pack against Reims in a bid to rest players ahead of the Champions League
Carlos Soler, Fabian Ruiz, Nordi Mukiele, Juan Bernat and Pablo Sarabia were each awarded starts during the Ligue 1 clash, while Neymar, Vitinha and Achraf Hakimi took to the bench.
Not only did the point gift second-place Lorient the chance to claw to within a point of the league leaders, but the disjointed performance continued to breed unrest within the PSG camp.
It was clear the frustrations had bled on to the pitch at the weekend, as experienced defender Sergio Ramos received a red card for dissent.
By establishing the non-negotiable expectation of triumphing in the Champions League, PSG have given the manager little option but to sacrifice other competitions in pursuit of the elusive trophy.
Sergio Ramos was brandished a red card for dissent amid reports of unrest in the PSG camp
Managers must build a team to beat the best
Despite struggling for European silverware, Pochettino was also axed for failing to produce a spectacle on the pitch.
Possessing a squad ornamented with glittering superstars, Galtier will be expected to put on a show for the fans in a similar fashion, especially against the top teams.
As Pochettino reclaimed the Ligue 1 title last season, PSG recorded 86 points, 90 goals scored and 36 conceded. Excluding the disrupted Covid-19 season, the club chalked up a higher points tally in every season between 2015 and 2020.
PSG also held an incredibly poor away record against the better teams in Ligue 1, failing to win against any of the top nine teams in the division.
The French giants suffered a humiliating 3-2 defeat by Real Madrid in Europe last campaign
Despite boasting a front three of Messi, Mbappe and Neymar, Pochettino’s side lost at, Nantes, Nice, Monaco and Rennes while drawing at Lens, Marseille, Lyon and Strasbourg.
And of course, losing the Champions League last 16 to Real Madrid in humiliating fashion, despite leading 2-0 on aggregate with 30 minutes to play, was a major blow in Pochettino’s long-term prospects at the club.
Beating the very best teams in France and the Champions League will be essential in determining Galtier’s success at PSG – and his next two games against Benfica and Marseille present a couple of mini tests before next month’s clash with Juventus and the blockbuster knockout matches next year.
Whilst it’s true there’s little to get too worked up about at this stage, the history of PSG’s ruthlessness with managers would suggest that the first cracks of Galtier’s reign are starting to show.
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