Friday, 29 July 2011

Pastore the icing on PSG's costly cake

Pastore doing his thing

Last night news began to spread that the unthinkable had happened, namely that PSG had secured the signing of Palermo's Javier Pastore.

The prospect of one of world football's most in-demand young talents pitching up at the Parc to spearhead the new era is an exciting one. It would also be a signal of intent that QSI mean business, attracting a star player from a more prestigious competition (Serie A) and from under the noses of a more established club (Chelsea). It would be, in the words of AFP's French football man Tom Williams, a game-changer.

Twenty four hours on, the only problem is nothing has been firmed up yet. There has been talk of, er, talks in London today with PSG officials and Pastore's agent, but perhaps unsurprisingly Antoine Kombouare was coy when asked about the player earlier today.

Speaking at a press conference ahead of the weekend's Emirates Cup tournament, AK said: "I didn't see Pastore at the Parc de Princes signing a contract.

"If a contract is not signed, people can say whatever they want. I cannot spend my time confirming or refuting those allegations."

It's bad form to comment on a transfer which isn't complete yet, especially when the player in question is going to cost you a reported €42million, so you would hope everything is being tied up behind the scenes. But the sceptical fan in me wonders whether the story that Pastore and PSG had reached an accord was a tactic by someone involved in transfer (I'm looking at you Pastore's Mr 10%) to give Chelsea and/or other big clubs a kick up the ass.

We shall see, but with the confirmed signings of Salvatore Sirigu and Momo Sissoko (profiles to follow), the squad is start to have a formidable look about it. Pastore would be the expensive icing on what is an already potentially tasty cake.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Three is the magic number - Matuidi, Menez, and Bisevac in profile

Just when it seemed like no business would get done this summer, the three muskateers rode into Paris today, ready to save the Queen of France PSG from the clutches of the dastardly Cardinal Didier Deschamps and OM.

Yes the Rouges-et-Bleus have finally completed some signings. Lets take a look at our potential new heroes.

Blaise Matuidi (from St Etienne, €7.5million-ish)
When I posted about the St Etienne midfielder’s imminent arrival last week, I didn’t stress how much I like the name Blaise. Say it to yourself, it just sounds so strong and dynamic.

Matuidi grew up in the, er, charming Parisien suburb Fontenay-sous-bois, and supported PSG as a boy, idolising Nigerian fancy-dan Jay Jay Okocha. His professional career began with Troyes, and established himself in the side in the 2005/06 season, making a name for himself as a tough-tackling midfielder who liked a yellow card (11 in 31 matches).

Troyes were relegated to Ligue 2 in 2007, and Matuidi moved on to ASSE, where he was part of Laurent Roussey’s exciting squad that finished fifth in Ligue 1 in 2007/08, linking up with the likes of Baftebi Gomis and Pascal Feindouno.

Frequently linked with moves abroad ever since, most notably to Arsenal and Liverpool, Matuidi should be a ready-made replacement for the retired Claude Makalele.

Jeremy Menez (from AS Roma, €8.5million-ish)
Jezza Menezza, as he isn’t but perhaps should be known, is another Parisien youngster to avoid detection by PSG’s scouts. The versatile winger started his career at Sochaux, before moving on to Monaco in 2006.

After two seasons at the Stade Louis II, during which he made 57 league appearances and scored 14 goals, he moved on to AS Roma. Ironically he was taken to the Italian capital partly as a replacement for Ludovic Giuly, the player whose spot in the PSG line-up he will probably fill.

His time in Serie A was marred by questions about his attitude, and current Roma boss Vicenzo Montella apparently gave him a 15-minute dressing down, berating his lack of commitment. Hopefully Antoine Kombouare will be able to keep the talented midfielder in line.

Milan Bisevac (from Valenciennes, €3.5million-ish)
The last of the trio to arrive, Bisevac is well-known to Kombouare, who signed him for VA in 2008. The Serbian came to Ligue 1 in 2007 when he joined Lens from Red Star Belgrade.

After just one season he was on the move, joining up with Valenciennes, where he stayed for three seasons, making 100 appearances. A long-term target of the club, he has seven caps for his country and, judging by this video, a fine head of hair:

Friday, 22 July 2011

Power games at the Parc

Since my last post, the PSG have won a match. Hurrah and indeed hooray.

Wednesday's 1-0 win over, er, Brighton, came courtesy of that man Nene, and the team are back in action next week as part of a triangular tournament involving AS Roma and the wonderfully named Austrian outfit Wacker Innsbruck, exciting times.

Whether any new players will be involved in that match is still open to question. It seems likely Milan Bisevac will be available, with the Serbian defender set to have a medical over the weekend ahead of his €3.5million move from Valenciennes.

Another transfer which seems to be making good progress is that of Blaise Matuidi from St Etienne for around €10million. Indeed, according to L'Parisien, ASSE midfielder Laurent Blattles has tweeted that he will miss the "Elastic Man", as Matuidi is apparently known in the dressing room. Bless him, hopefully the pair will stay in touch. Jeremy Clement's move in the opposite direction is still very much on, but is being handled as a separate deal.

While the PSG midfeld could be gaining an elastic man next season, it may not be featuring a Moroccan man, with the move for Adel Taarabt said to be on the verge of collapse because Leonardo, shrewd operator that he is, has noticed that €12-15million for an unproven prima-donna perhaps maybe possibly doesn't represent good value for money. Leo is looking to pay around €6-8million, and it will be interesting to see how the affair pans out because it may give us a clue who is wearing the trousers in the new regime.

The owners, QSI, have been keen on Taarabt all summer, but when Leonardo was appointed it was made clear that he was to have full control on recruitment. Rather than Taarabt, the Brazilian would prefer to recruit Jeremy Menez from Roma, who could be available for €8.5million. Word on the street (by street I mean Twitter) is that talks have begun between the clubs.

So will Leo get his way? Or will the owners put their foot down? Or will they use their financial largesse and just sign both? What is certain is that signing Menez and Matuidi, both supposedly boyhood PSG fans, would be a good step towards maintaining the club's identity despite the take-over.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Ups and downs, draws and defeats, comings and goings

The PSG players have been very busy on their pre-season tour of Portugal.

Volleyball, swimming, and, er, rollercoasters have all been on the agenda judging by the photos on the official club site. With some much going on, winning football matches obviously hasn't been a priority, with a 3-1 defeat to Benfica recorded on Friday night followed by a 1-1 draw with Anderlecht on Saturday.

Nene got the only Parisien goal of the Benfica match with this rather delicious chip

While the Anderlecht game saw Kevin Gameiro find the net for the first time in red and blue with a header which was cancelled out in the second half.

There's little point reading too much into pre-season results in my opinion, but nevertheless I'm sure Kombouare will be hoping for a victory when his charges conclude their Iberian jaunt with a match against Brighton tomorrow (Wednesday).

Leonardo meanwhile has topped up his tan sufficiently and is back in Paris, ready to get the commence the les grandes manoeuvres du recrutement. It's difficult to summarise briefly all the players the PSG have been linked with in the last couple of days, but I'll have a go.

The club is reportedly upping it's bid for Ganso to €40million, and expects to complete the long mooted deal for Milan Bisevac this week for a fee in the region of €3.5million. Adel Taarabt is said to be packing his bags in preparation for a move to the capital while a bid of €7-8million could be on the way for Benfica defender Luisao.

I have to confess I know little about the 30-year-old Brazilian, but journalist and all-round European football guru Andy Brassell had some interesting stuff to say about him on Twitter yesterday:

"Insistent link of Luisão & PSG is an interesting one on a number of
levels. Yes, PSG need a dominant CB but a) can Benfica afford to

"...him so soon after shipping David Luiz & b) how long
will it take him to adjust to Ligue 1's physicality? Might be better off
with Bisevac..."

On their way out, according to Le Parisien, could be a few of the old guard. Jeremy Clement has been linked with a move all summer, and could end up as make-weight in a deal for St Etienne's Blaise Matuidi.

Centre back Zoumana Camara is likely to be off as well, while depending on which website you believe Marco Ceara wants to stay in Paris or has dispatched his agent to find new employers in his native Brazil. More likely to be at the club next season are Peggy Luyindula and Sylvain Armand, both of whom are said to be in Kombouare's plans.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Rumour central: Stop the press, everybody linked

The rumour mill surrounding the PSG ground to something of a halt last week, with the press deciding to stop making up stories about players coming in and instead concentrating on what we can now refer to as Leonardo-gate.

But now that Leo is in-situ as the club’s sporting director, it’s perhaps no surprise that the mill had gone into over-drive.

"The first thing I will do is talk to the coach and discuss the state of affairs, something I didn't have the right to do before I signed," said Leo. "I don't want to disrupt the team's routine straight away.

"The owners want to build lasting success and not go out and buy ten Leo Messi's in one fell swoop. That's not how you build a team. The core of the team is already there, we just need to improve it.

“We won't just buy players and see what happens; we're not under pressure. I haven't had direct contact with any player yet. It all starts now."

Bless him, what a smooth operator he is. Like a Brazilian version of Jim from Apprentice (above). Only time will tell whether Leonardo is, in the words of Alan Sugar, brains or bollocks.

The press seem to have assumed the latter, given the extensive list of targets wheeled out this morning.

On Leo’s list, if we are to believe France Football and others, are: Luisao, Adel Taarabt, Eden Hazard, Ganso, Lucas (not the Liverpool one), Mauro Zarate, Jeremy Ménez and Keisuke Honda.

The most interesting ones on that list for me are Benfica defender Luisao and CSKA midfielder Honda, both of whom play in positions where PSG need some re-enforcements. If one believes reports, a €12million offer for Honda is already winging it’s way to Russia.

Ganso, Lucas, and Zarate seem like lazy links due to Leo’s connections in Brazil/Italy, and indeed there are quotes floating about today from Ganso’s agent saying he expects to join Milan at some point.

I still don’t believe Hazard will come, nice as it is to think he would, Menez is allegedly in talks with the dastardly OM, and all seems to have gone quiet on the Taarabt front, though now that QPR have signed Kieran Dyer I imagine he’s surplus to requirements anyway, hehe.

It would be nice to think one or two of the stories are accurate, as the start of the season is fast approaching and the squad still looks a little short. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

The Leo from Rio he say maybe

Is there anything more boring than a transfer saga?

Will Samir Nasri got to Man City? Or United? Or will he stay at Arsenal? And by the time he’s made his mind up will anyone apart from Sky Sports News care? At this time of year there are always many more questions than answers, and it makes me want to go to sleep and wake up on the first day of the season.

Perhaps the only thing duller than a prolonged transfer is a prolonged transfer that doesn’t even involve a player, and in that respect Leonardo’s on/off/on/off/zzzzz move to join the PSG hasn’t disappointed so far.

The latest news – such as it is – seems to suggest his bizarre press conference in Milan last week has done the trick and persuaded QSI to give him all the powers he wanted to run the show at the Parc des Princes.

You can’t not like Leonardo. I mean, look at his little pixie face (above). But it’s not nice to see the new owners being so transparently blackmailed so early in their reign. Meanwhile the conundrum of how Leo and Robin Leproux will work together – if at all – remains unsolved, but perhaps all will be revealed when an announcement is made tomorrow. Or the next day. Or next week. Or in 2012.

On the playing front, PSG lost their first friendly 3-2 in Sion on Saturday, with late goals from Siaka Tiene and Clement Chantome making the match look a bit closer than it was.

In fairness Sion start their league season on Saturday, so one would expect them to be leaner and meaner than their Parisien counterparts, who only returned to training a couple of weeks ago

“We're a little bit disappointed because we would have preferred to win,” said Antoine Kombouare afterwards. “But I'm satisfied that we came back the way we did. We never gave up.”

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Rumour central: Leonardo, Taarabt, Capoue, Anelka

Watching David Haye take an age to enter the ring in Germany on Saturday for his fight against Wladimir Klitschko, my mind wandered to Leonardo’s long-mooted arrival at PSG.

Like Haye, Leo’s arrival seems to have taken a disproportionately long time, especially given that he is only going to be sporting director. Let’s hope the Brazilian isn’t going to cry off after his first day at work with a broken toe.

Anyway, it appears Leo has finished high-fiving the crowd and glaring angrily at his opponent and is now ready for battle. He could even arrive in Paris today to sign a four-year-contract.
His arrival can’t come soon enough, as according to the Parisien, the club are waiting for him to ok moves for Valenciennes defender Milan Bisevac, a long-term target of Antoine Kombouare, and…. QPR’s Adel Taarabt.

A €15.3million offer for Taarabt has allegedly already been tabled, which seems to me to be a tad too much for a player with questionable temperament and very little experience playing at the highest level. I like Taarabt as a player, but I’m not sure he’s really what the PSG needs.

One day one of these many phantom offers for players will be expected, and perhaps it will be the €13million which is allegedly on the table to tempt Toulouse to part with defensive midfielder Etienne Capoue. However, PSG will face competition from Schalke and, ominously, Barcelona for his signature according to

Elsewhere, Mevlut Erding claims he would like to stay in Paris, which is about as meaningful as me saying I’d like to win the lottery. While I’m hoping my numbers will come up, Erding’s number is probably already up, with Galatasaray and Sunderland having reportedly joined his list of suitors.

There were some half-hearted stories floating around this morning suggesting PSG might be in for Chelsea striker Nicholas Anelka, presumably on the basis of how well his last spell at the Parc ended. But I’m going to stick my neck on the line and say that one is a load of bollocks.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

The hunt for the new Messi

Like a cloud of volcanic ash, Qatari Sports Investment have been looming overhead for some time.

But this week they finally arrived at the PSG, ready to wreak havoc across the world. Or at least in the transfer market. In fact given the money they supposedly have at their disposal, perhaps it would be more appropriate to refer to them as a c-ash cloud. Or maybe not.

Anyway, QSI now own 70 per cent of les Rouges-et-Bleu, and their representative Nasser Al-Khelaïfi has been busy telling anyone who wants to listen that their plan for the club doesn't involve signing Eto'o, Berbatov, or any of the other over-the-hill, over-priced stars that have been linked with a move to the Parc des Princes.

"More than anything we want the new Messi," said Al-Khelifi. "We don't want to sign Lionel Messi, but we want to invest in the big stars of tomorrow from all over the world, including France."

It's a nice line and all, but quite how this plan marries up with QSI's other stated aim, qualification for the Champions League next season, remains to be seen. I guess by big stars of tomorrow, Al-Khelifi means established players on the up like Eden Hazard, rather than those who will be ready for the first team in a few years time.

But if the likes of Hazard do appear, lets hope it doesn't slow the progress of some of the club's home-grown players. In the whirl of speculation about who may or may not be arriving, two signings which have actually happened slipped by under the radar. Striker Jean-Christophe Bahebeck and the brilliantly named attacking midfielder Neeskens Kebano, both members of last year's successful under-19 side, have penned their first professional contracts.

The pair debuted last season, both finding the net in the 2-0 victory over Le Mans in the quarter-finals of the Coupe de France, and went on to feature sporadically for the first team during the run-in. There is said to be more talent where they came from, and though I won't claim to be familiar with the club's youth team, it would be a shame to start looking too far afield for "new Messi's" if there are some waiting to be developed closer to home.

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