Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Ochoa on the way?

Fresh from having their advances spurned by Dmitri Payet, the PSG appeared to have been given the brush off by another target today, when it was announced that the magnificently coiffured Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa had made a surprising move to Ajaccio.

But in a turn of events almost as unexpected as Jo-Wilfried Tsonga’s come-back against Roger Federer at Wimbledon, Ochoa could now be heading for the Parc-des-Princes instead.

According to France Football Ochoa has cancelled his flight to Corsica, lured instead to the capital by a salary double that which was on offer at newly promoted Ajaccio.

Nothing is confirmed yet, but one wonders whether Ochoa ever had any intention of joining Ajaccio, or whether it was just a ploy to get the PSG to up their offer. But either way, if he does sign I doubt anyone will be complaining too much if he displays this kind of form at the Parc. After all, who wouldn’t want a goalkeeper who can play two matches at once?

Payet meanwhile has been speaking about his decision to join Ligue 1 champions Lille.

“I made my choice on sporting criteria,” he said. “I was won over by the coach's discourse and the club's long-term ambitions.”

You can’t argue with that really, but it’s disappointing that PSG couldn’t close a deal which almost happened in January. At the moment the club remind me a bit of Manchester City in the early stages of their Sheikh-led revolution, being linked to a lot of top names but not managing to actually sign any of them.

Let’s hope they don’t end up making a swoop for Wayne Bridge.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Rumour Central: Payet, Kaboul, Palacios, Ochoa

We've all had to make difficult choices in life.

The band U2, for example, had to decide some years ago what to do with the millions they had collected in their long career of peddling unimaginative middle-of-the-road rock music; keep it in their native Ireland, supporting their homeland but subjecting themselves to a higher level of taxation, or move it abroad to a more financially favourable regime in Holland. They chose the latter.

If you believe what you read in the papers, St Etienne's Dimitri Payet is at the moment choosing whether to join the PSG or Lille. Whatever he chooses, it is unlikely his decision will provoke protestations of the sort which heralded the start of Bono and co's set at Glastonbury on Friday night.

Payet is presumably weighing up whether the PSG and it's "project" (ie cash) is a better bet than playing in the Champions League next year with Lille. According to L'Equipe, LOSC are in pole position to sign the man who was top-scorer for Les Verts last year.

Elsewhere, with a central defender and central midfielder said to be high on Antoine Kombouare's shopping list, a £25 million double swoop for Spurs duo Younes Kaboul and Wilson Palacios appeared to be a fairly credible story. That is until PSGT noticed that it emanated in that bastion of fact-based journalism, The Sun. Let's not hold our breath on that one then.

Two men previously linked with a move to the capital are back on the radar, presumably because it's been a quiet weekend in journo-land. La Voix Du Nord reports that a suitcase stuffed with €4million could be heading to Valenciennes in a bid to persuade them to part with Serbian defender Milan Bisevac, and Le Parisien says that the PSG have turned their attention back to Mexican keeper Guillermo Ochoa, who is out of contract at his current club, the grandly titled FC America. We'll confess to knowing very little about the latter other than that he sports an amusing mullet, which seems reason enough to sign any player as far as we're concerned. Plus he can hardly be worse than Edel.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Hurrah for continuity - Leproux and Kombouare stay put

Football club owners aren't a breed known for their close relationship with the truth.

After all, how many struggling managers have received the good old "vote of confidence" from ther boss just days before being confidently booted out onto the street.

But leaving that aside, today's announcement by Nasser Al-Khelaifi that PSG president Robin Leproux and coach Antoine Kombouare will keep their jobs under the new Qatari regime has to be a welcome one.

Speaking after a meeting with the Direction Nationale de Contrôle et de Gestion, at which he answered questions about the club’s new ownership, Al-Khelaifi, who is expected to become the new president of the club’s advisory board, told L’Equipe: "He [Leproux] will remain president, and the coach (Kombouare) will also be the same."

Quite where this leaves the club’s “probable future sporting director” Leonardo, whose appointment seemed as inevitable as Andy Murray losing in the semi-finals at Wimbledon, remains unclear, but perhaps more will be revealed when the Qataris officially take over, which could be as soon as Monday.

Obviously it’s early days, and one wonders whether the new owners are keeping the likes of Rafa Benitez and Carlo Ancelotti on speed-dial in case PSG start the season poorly. But perhaps the lack of immediate sweeping changes in the dug-out is indicative of the Qataris wanting to take a sensible approach to their new project.

In his excellent blog post written last week, Robert Smithson raises some valid concerns about the impact the big-money take-over could have, particularly on the club’s young players. But it should also be pointed out that some clubs have managed to strike a decent balance between spending and developing since being brought out. Aston Villa, for example, appear to have a flourishing youth policy despite the heavy investment of American owner Randy Lerner.

It can be done, but whether the Qataris have the patience, or inclination, to look at the long game remains to be seen.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Rumour Central: Varane, Eto'o, Berbatov, Menez

Much like Pippa Middleton, one suspects PSG will continue to be linked with anyone vaguely eligible this summer, as lazy/overworked journos fill their pages with speculation about who is going to be the recipient of some Qatari cash.

As far as PSGT is concerned, the club's pulling power is, like Middleton's, probably a bit over-rated, but today's batch of stories does include one which may have legs.

Lens have reportedly accepted an offer, believed to be in the region of €10million for defender Raphael Varane. According to RMC Sport, Lens president Gervais Martel says the decision now rests with the player, with Real Madrid also interested along with Manchester United and an un-named French club named Lyon.

Rumour has it that it's a straight fight between Paris and Madrid, and the player himself claims first-team football is a priority, meaning he could favour a move to the capital.

"I can move abroad or I could join a Ligue 1 club," he said. "What interests me is playing regularly so I have to think carefully and go to a club where I can progress."

At the other end of the believability scale, France Football tells us that Leonardo, PSG's "probable future sporting director" (bet that looks great on business cards) is having coffee in Paris today with Inter Milan's Samuel Eto'o in a bid to convince the striker, who he bossed at the Nerazurri last season, to make a move to Ligue 1 in exchange for a €15 million a year salary package.

"I'm thinking about some different proposals," said Eto'o in typically cryptic fashion. "I have a month to decide. I'm 30 and have to think carefully before I make a decision."

While nobody would argue with the Cameroonian's scoring record over the last decade, his best days are probably behind him, and making him the highest paid player in Europe wouldn't seem like a particularly sensible idea. Still, given that the story is lighter on facts than the last Harry Potter book, I won't hold my breath on it coming true.

If you prefer your aging, moody, strikers to be of the Bulgarian variety, Le Parisien reports that Manchester United's Dimitar Berbatov could be on his way to the Parc de Princes. Again, doesn't seem to be much to this beyond mere speculation, as the Red Devils have yet to confirm whether they wish to part with their top scorer from last season.

One player definitely up for a move to Paris is Jeremy Menez, who didn't let the fact that there's no suggestion that a) PSG are interested, or b) his current club, Roma, want to sell him, get in the way of a good sales pitch.

"There's no shame in returning from Serie A to Ligue, those days are finished now," said Menez, as he stuffed a copy of his CV into an envelope marked Paris. "PSG could be an option. If the means are there and the club constructs a good team, I could definitely enjoy playing in Paris."

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