Thomas Tuchel: The end
Paris Saint-Germain have been negotiating to bring in Mauricio Pochettino as their new coach and expect he will be in the dugout when their Ligue 1 campaign resumes against Saint-Etienne on January 6.
The end of Thomas Tuchel’s reign had been months in the making but came at a time when few actually expected it. Ultimately his strained relationship with sporting director Leonardo expedited his departure, and now his sacking has been made official, it will be interesting to see what obstacles his successor will face.
Transfer and contract negotiations are a big part of being in charge in Paris and that will not change soon. Constantly dealing with rumours around Kylian Mbappe and Neymar is another part of the job, as is the speculation surrounding potential targets.
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On top of that, there's the pressure to win. The Champions League is the holy grail for the owners and with a last-16 knockout tie against Barcelona awaiting them, it will be an intense introduction for the new manager. There are trophies to win domestically as well.
Pochettino has been eyeing this job at PSG for a few weeks and in the past days has been discussing the details of a contract, sources say. An initial deal until the end of the 2022-23 season has been discussed in detail, with assistants Jesus Perez and Miguel D'Agostino being given the green light to join him in France. Goalkeeping coach Toni Jimenez is likely to join too.
Massimiliano Allegri, the former Juventus manager, and former PSG player Thiago Motta have also been strongly considered but Pochettino has been on the radar of PSG since losing his job at Tottenham; there is a belief that his style of football and character will take this team to another level.
The PSG players have already been discussing the situation via WhatsApp groups while on their winter break, but there will be very little time for Pochettino to get to know them when his new role is made official.
A transfer window, new contracts for star players, a Champions League push and domestic cup final and title race are all on the agenda within the first six weeks of the year. The team are currently third in Ligue 1, a point behind leaders Lyon, and are fully expected to win the division.
What to expect from Pochettino
PSG are set to return to training on January 3 and there is hope from those around the club that Pochettino will quickly identify and fix some tactical flaws in the squad. One source in France explains how it was felt Tuchel did not spend enough time on specific tactical elements of play that needed addressing. Pochettino was pretty sharp on such issues at Spurs and his attention to detail is one of the key reasons he was identified. His pressing style of football is one that the club want to embrace.
That seems easier said than done. The current make up of the PSG squad does not lean towards replicating what was achieved at Spurs. But the transfer market opens in January and Pochettino will get the opportunity to make tweaks.
It is felt from those close to him that Pochettino will assess whether new full-backs are needed and possibly even a different type of forward, if they are going to quickly take on a higher energy game.
Expect a Tottenham raid
It will be no surprise to see former Spurs players join, too.
One of his star men from north London, Christian Eriksen, has already been lined up by PSG for this window. It’s coincidence rather than pre-planning that the pair could now be reunited, but having Poch in charge is certainly going to encourage Eriksen to make the move. The Dane was Pochettino's most-used player during his time at Tottenham.
Various options are being explored, but they will begin by trying a swap deal with Leandro Paredes and move on to another solution from there if needs be.
Dele Alli has been linked and could join on loan with a view of playing in a support role to the current forwards. The player is said to be keen on the prospect of moving abroad for a stint but so far Spurs have not had any contact about the move. PSG tried to sign him last summer but chairman Daniel Levy blocked the deal. This time he may be more agreeable, given the player's lack of game-time.
Mauricio Pochettino (L) gestures to Tottenham Hotspur's English midfielder Dele Alli
Image credit: Eurosport
Other names from Spurs will undoubtedly be linked too, with sources close to the London club expecting the names of Serge Aurier, Hugo Lloris and Harry Winks to crop up at some stage.
Beyond that, anything substantial will most likely have to wait until the end of the season. The club have been hit hard by the pandemic, with Ligue 1 ending early last season and match day revenue almost non-existent for most of the year. The new boss will be told to sell players that are deemed surplus, to help fund new signings. But there will be some cash made available to help mould a team suited to a new identity.
Mbappe out, Messi in?
The focus around signing Lionel Messi is something else Pochettino will have to deal with if he is announced as boss.
Mbappe and Neymar are both in negotiations regarding new deals, but it is still unclear how close they are to agreeing terms. Priority has been put on Neymar's deal, but terms for Mbappe are also being worked on. There is a chance Mbappe could leave for Real Madrid and that's where the door could open for a potential Messi move if he decides to leave Barcelona.
Pochettino is from Argentina too, of course, but there are other settled figures at the club who are expected to use their personal contacts to convince Messi that Paris should be his first choice destination.
The expectation of success
Pochettino has always fancied the chance to manage PSG and should now get his opportunity. For all the talk of him potentially landing at Manchester United, Juventus or Real Madrid - none of them made a move. Let’s see how he copes at a club that expects success. PSG feel he is ready to become one of the game's superstar coaches.