Sunday, 29 July 2012

DC United 1-1 PSG: Welcome to the Ibra show

"Ibra is a really strong player, in my opinion, he is a monster."
The words of Jeremy Menez, speaking about his new team-mate Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Whether Jezza gave that interview before or after he got Ibra'd in training on Saturday is unclear. The Swede, who has previous in the team-mate tackling department, also crunched Nene and Matuidi in what was must have been a competitive training session. I guess they're all his bitches now, perhaps he'll make them walk around holding his pocket ala T-Bag from Prison Break.

Zlatan's ridiculous behaviour has always been and will continue to be tolerated because, as footballers go, he's pretty damn great.

It took him just two and a half minutes in a Paris Saint-Germain shirt to show Les Rouge-et-Bleu fans what he'll hopefully be producing on a regular basis this season. In the third minute of today's friendly with DC United he received a pass from Nene in space on the right. Taking one defender out of the equation with an outrageous drag-back, Ibra made room for a left-footed shot and thumped it beyond the keeper.

DC United later equalised from the penalty spot through Dwayne De Rosario (or, as the commentator referred to him, D-Ro) and 1-1 it finished.

"We're aiming for everything," said the big man afterwards. "We're in the Champions League, we have the two cups in France, so of course a club team has to win everything. We have a top team and we are only missing a winning team."

That may be the case, but the DC United match only served to highlight the remaining weaknesses in the squad. 

Milan Bisevac was the culprit on the penalty, and the Serbian remains our second-choice right-back despite the fact that up until last season he'd played his entire career in the centre. Siaka Tiene shouldn't be anywhere near a team which has aspirations of progressing in the Champions League, but he'll be second choice at left-back. And though Thiago Silva is an obviously impressive addition to our stable of centre-backs, if Sakho makes good on his threat to leave then we'll be left with the ageing legs of Lugano and Camara as cover.

Hopefully it'll all be fine, because our first XI should be a match for anyone. But if a few injuries start to bite then Ancelotti and Leonardo might rue not sacrificing one of their new attacking signings for another defensive option.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Stupid PSG picture of the week: Lavezzi gives Chantome body envy

Here at PSGT we've been planning a new picture-based feature for the 2012/13 season.

It's working title was PSG players with shit tattoos, as I've noticed that a lot of the squad have terrible ink, the sort of thing you would only usually see on a sailor or a chav. Or a footballer.

But I've decided to instead give it a more general theme, as the internet is full of amusing PSG-related photos which deserve to be shared with a wider audience.

Today's effort is a doozy, and I'm sure most of us Anglo-Saxons can feel Clement Chantome's pain. You're enjoying a nice holiday, be it by the pool or on the beach, and decide to take off your shirt and catch some rays. Unfortunately it isn't long before a brown, muscular good looking poser pitches up next door to make you feel completely inadequate. The poser in this instance is new signing Ezequiel Lavezzi, and as @jeremysmith98 pointed out on Twitter, what better metaphor could you need for Old PSG v New PSG?

Pic: @nicolaplume33 on Twitter, though they probably nicked it from somewhere else

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

PSG unveil Ibrahimovic and Verratti. Or why do footballers lie?

Ibracadbra! Zlatan Ibrahimovic landed in Paris today to officially complete his move from AC Milan.

Following a press conference Zlatan, who has signed a three-year-contract said to be worth more than the biggest number known to man, went down to the Trocadero for a photoshoot in front of the Eiffel Tower: A fitting spot given that the tower is now the only thing in the French capital bigger than Ibra's ego.

The Swedish motor-mouth didn't disappoint in his press conference, and I've selected a few choice quotes below:
"PSG is on its way to becoming a huge club and I'm delighted to be part of the project."

"This is the start of something big. Not just for French football, not just for European football. It's a dream team."

"[‪PSG‬] have bought the best defender in the world, Thiago Silva. Who doesn't want to be here? This is the future."

"I don't know many Ligue 1 players, but for sure they will know me."

"I don't believe much in religion. Football is a religion and everybody is welcome."

"I'm here to win. And I think we will win. This is another dream come true."
A mixture of the sublime and the ridiculous I'm sure you'll agree. That last quote irked me a bit, because I've never understood why footballers have to lie all the time.

Clearly it wasn't Ibra's childhood ambition to play for PSG, when did he have this dream? On the flight on the way over? I guess some fans lap up those kind of lines, but I feel it's the player taking us for idiots. I don't expect them to say "I'm here for the cash", but they could tone down the rhetoric a little bit.

Earlier Marco Verratti had also been paraded before the assembled media, a very highly-priced hors d'œuvres to whet the appetite ahead of the main course.

"It's an amazing feeling to be rubbing shoulders with players like Ibra, [Ezequiel] Lavezzi and [Javier] Pastore. What an amazing experience. I can’t wait for the season to kick off," said Verratti. I hope for his own sake he's left his autograph book at home otherwise training could be a bit embarrassing.

He continued: "I love Pescara, but in life you have to make choices, this kind of opportunity comes around maybe just once in a lifetime, so I couldn't say no to PSG."

At the moment it seems like no one can.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

PSG's very important Tuesday as they close in on Verratti and Ibrahimovic

Verratti: Ambushed at the airport
First there was Shrove Tuesday, then Super Tuesday, and now there's, er, PSG's Very Important Tuesday.

Having already tied up the signature of Thiago Silva over the weekend, the Parisiens could confirm two more new signings today, with Pescara midfielder Marco Verratti having arrived in Paris last night, and talks continuing over the transfer of Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

"I think [Tuesday] will be an important day," said Leonardo, giving a Harry Redknapp-style interview through his car window. "Work continues, we continue to talk, we'll see."

Verratti's move should be confirmed today, assuming the player passes a medical this morning: "I couldn't refuse PSG's offer," he said. "I'm ready and I dream of playing alongside great players." I know how he feels, we all dream of playing alongside Siaka Tiene at some point in our careers.

The Ibra deal has caught the eye of French president Francois Hollande, who must be rubbing his hands with glee at the thought of the €11million income tax he'll be able to collect on the Swede's €14million per year net salary.

David Cameron should do more photos like this
"I made ​​sure that there are tax rules for huge salaries and this will apply everywhere, even in clubs," said Hollande proudly. "Montpellier, which does not have the largest budget of Ligue 1, has managed to be champion of France..."

He may have been (allegedly) racist, and a bit of a berk, but I think I preferred it when PSG-supporting Nicolas Sarkozy was in charge.

Silva, who cost €46million, will not join up with the squad for their tour of the USA as he's part of the Brazilian Olympic team.

"He is a fantastic player. I'm very happy," said Carletto, speaking after Saturday's 2-2 friendly draw with CSKA Moscow in Austria. "He will improve the quality of the team. The club has done a fantastic job. "

The boss also made some non-commital noises on the future of Mamadou Sakho, who you may remember threatened to quit PSG if they signed another defender.

"I will choose the best," said Ancelotti, when questioned on who will partner Silva. "Today's decision is that Mamadou Sakho stays. But after that, if he asks to leave..."

Friday, 13 July 2012

Mixed feelings as PSG swoop for Milan duo Silva and Ibrahimovic

Tomorrow is Bastille Day, so Bonne Fête to all my French readers, may you enjoy celebrating the revolution in traditional fashion. Well, maybe not too traditional, Concorde is far too busy these days to accommodate a guillotine.

In Paris the fireworks started a couple of days early with the news that Paris Saint-Germain's shock/remarkable/sensational double swoop for AC Milan defender Thiago Silva and striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic was back on.

PSG have agreed a €65million fee for the pair and, having already done a deal with Silva’s people, are in discussions with Zlatan's agent, Mino Raiola. The current state of said discussions varies depending on which media source you believe, and reports that PSG have offered to buy Bercy for Ibra so he can use it as his own private taekwondo practice arena have yet to be confirmed. Personally I like to think of Raiola as Dr Evil from Austen Powers, complete with little finger at lips: "Pay my client..... ONE TRILLION EUROS".

Anyway, assuming the transfer goes ahead, which is a dangerous assumption where PSG are concerned, I’m in two minds as to what I think.

Firstly I should say that there’s no doubt in my mind that Silva is an astute purchase: experienced, but young enough at 27 to still improve, and he and Mamadou Sakho could form the bedrock of PSG’s defence for years to come, assuming Ancelotti has the sense to pair them together that is.

Zlatan is a different kettle of fish. On a superficial level, I defy anyone not to get a bit excited about their club signing one of the world’s top strikers. If Ibra does join it will be fascinating to see how he fares in Ligue 1, and his presence will certainly boost the profile of the club and football in France as a whole, as well as adding some much-needed Champions League experience to the squad. Plus he is bound to give Menez and Nene (if he stays) some competition in the diva stakes – I hope neither of them ends up on the wrong end of a flying kick.

But nevertheless, I can’t get away from the nagging feeling that parachuting in a 30-year-old at huge expense is wrong. I imagine this is akin to the sensation you get when hiring an high-price hooker*: an initially exciting but, ultimately, unfulfilling experience which leaves you longing for the real thing.

No team should be able to go straight from Luyindula to Ibrahimovic, it’s a massive short circuiting of the natural order of football. It’s also a dramatic departure from what we were promised when QSI took over, i.e. that the club would sign and develop the world’s top young footballing talents. The purchase of Verratti – which I assume is still on the cards – would be a good step in this direction, but increasingly the squad is getting full of quick fixes: Maxwell, Motta, Alex, and now Zlatan.

Reading this back I’m worried I sound a bit like a ungrateful football snob, which couldn’t be further from the truth: I have no problem with QSI lavishing their cash on PSG as long as they have a plan of how they’re going to spend it. Unfortunately the signing of Zlatan smacks of a club grabbing at the nearest available superstar, and if Leonardo and co continue to pursue such a haphazard, short-term, agenda then Les Rouges-et-Bleu will lose any semblance of identity and end up being yet another expensive car-park for football’s biggest names.

*Just to be clear in case Mrs PSGT is reading, I have never and would never hire a hooker, high-class or otherwise. Don't do it kids. 

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Eyes down, it's PSG window bingo

Best. Picture. Ever. (Pic: PSG official site)
The Paris Saint-Germain squad have been getting away from it all this week at a pre-season training camp in Austria.

As well as training hard in preparation for the new season, the lads have been engaging in a bit of bonding on the go-karting track and back at base camp, where they enjoyed a BBQ and a sing-song (above). Bless them, it must be like the world’s best-funded scout camp, I wonder if any of them will get their map reading badge?

Back on Planet Football, the transfer market continues to throw up more ridiculous stories than the John Terry trial, and with this in mind we’ve come up with this fun game, PSG WINDOW BINGO. When you end up accidentally reading a story too proposterous to be true, amuse yourself by seeing how many of the following you can tick off. Note: The Daily Mail is probably your best bet if you want a full house.
  • “Big-spending PSG/mega-rich PSG/variations”
  • “ by their Qatari owners...”
  • “...are set to embark on a massive summer spending spree”
  • “ they bid to compete with Europe’s elite”
  • “...have the funds to compete with the world’s richest clubs”
  • “the French Manchester City”
  • “...were pipped to the title by unfancied Montpellier last season”
  • “...can offer [player] Champions League football next season”
  • “... have already signed the likes of Javier Pastore and Thiago Motta”
  • “Carlo Ancelotti/Leonardo will try to tempt [player] to France”
  • “PSG’s sporting director Leonardo has made enquiries about [player’s] availability”
  • “Ancelotti admires [player] from his time in England”
  • “Ancelotti knows all about [player], who he managed at Chelsea/AC Milan”
  • “[Player] is interested in being part of the PSG project”
PSG window bingo would also work well as a drinking game, though if you're playing drinking games while reading made-up nonsense on the internet it's probably time to re-assess your priorities in life.

If you have any suggestions for other categories feel free to let me know.

Friday, 6 July 2012

The Rumour Mill: Changing of the guard at the Parc-des-Princes

As a child your parents always inflict terrible stuff on you: pudding-bowl haircuts, days out bird-watching, Brussels sprouts and so on.

Aside from ornithology, one of the most boring trips I remember from my youth was going to watch the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. For those not familiar, this (in my eyes) overly long process marks the shift-change between the soldiers guarding Her Maj: Cue much, pomp, ceremony, marching and lots of silly hats.

There's something of a changing of the guard going on at the Parc-des-Princes at present. Though less boring, the Paris Saint-Germain version is a lot grubbier, and involves several good servants of the club being pushed out to make way for new arrivals.

Verr-y good news from Italy?

Let's start with the incoming, and it seems likely PSG will beat Juventus and Napoli to the signing of Pescara midfielder Marco Verratti. The diminutive playmaker, who may or may not be known as the Messi of the Adriatic, has been in discussions with Leo over a €14million transfer, and with neither of his Italian suitors 
prepared to match that price a move to France is looking likely for the 19-year-old.

"It was very constructive," said Verratti's agent, the extremely Italian-sounding Donato Di Campli. "We spoke to everyone involved in the deal and, obviously, everyone set out their demands. I can safely say that PSG are extremely interested in signing the player.

"We agreed to take some time to think over the offer: we'll be speaking to each other again in the next few days, although we don’t know whether that meeting will take place in Milan or Paris. Everyone involved has to decide where the best place to meet again will be." 

Milan? Paris? Even if the transfer doesn't happen, at least we can expect some exciting meeting-based news in the next few days.

Lyon lust after Parisien pair

Once upon a time Lyon were the big noise in French football, splashing cash on star names and winning the title every year with their eyes closed. But austerity is the name of the game down in the Rhone Valley these days, and formerly free-spending president Jean-Michel Aulas is reduced to trying to cadge a couple of loans from PSG.

Sadly, he looks set to succeed in luring Clement Chantome to the Stade Gerland on a season-long loan deal. Much-loved by the PdP faithful, Chantome didn't get much game-time last year and Ancelotti confirmed earlier this week that he had asked for a transfer. PSG and Lyon are currently discussing a year-long loan switch.

"He [Chantome] is an excellent player. The loan is possible because I have excellent relations with PSG," said Aulas. Rumour has it OL would also like to take Mamadou Sakho on loan in the wake of the defenders comments in L'Equipe this week:

"If a defender comes, I'll do everything to leave," said Sakho, gathering up his toys and launching them out of the pram. "I have to think about my future. My goal this season is to play.

"I will be open to proposals from clubs willing to give me playing time and allow me to continue my progress. I think I can wear another jersey in Ligue 1, to show that PSG were wrong not to trust me."

I've made my feelings on Sakho perfectly clear before - we should be building our defence around him, not marginalising him. At the same time no player is bigger than the club and comments like this aren't very helpful, though I understand his frustrations. The club don't seem to want to sell him anyway, so it's probably a moot point, and even if they did I'd hope he'd set his sights a bit higher than Lyon.

Nene is still on the look-out for a new contract, and has again been linked with a move to Spanish side Malaga, another side under middle-Eastern ownership. Bearing that in mind the Brazilian could be about to swap one expensive frying pan for a gold-plated fire.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Player profile: Ezequiel Lavezzi

Name: Ezequiel Lavezzi
DOB: May 3 1985
Former Clubs: Estudiantes, Genoa, San Lorenzo, Napoli
Signed: July 2012, €30million
International: Full Argentina international

PSG’s latest big-money recruit is a man of many nicknames.

Ezequiel Lavezzi is known variously as la Bestia (The Beast), el Loco (The Crazy) and, most famously, el Pocho (The Chubby one). I’m up for combining the three and christening him el Beslocho, but I’m not convinced it’ll catch on.

A winger-cum-forward noted for his power and work-rate, Lavezzi has cost QSI €30million, and the 27-year-old has signed a four-year-contract at the Parc des Princes.

At an early age Lavezzi was also christened the New Maradona. I have no facts to back this up, but it’s probably true since approximately 96.5 per cent of young Argentinean forward acquire this title at some point in their careers, despite the fact that approximately 95.6 per cent of them end up being the new Facundo Sava.

After being bombed out by Maradona’s old club, Boca Juniors, young Pocho ended up at Estudiantes (insert footballing education joke here) where he played in 2003/04, scoring 17 goals in 39 appearances.

With statistics like that he was never going to stay in South America long, and he was soon snapped up by Genoa for a bargain basement fee of €1million. However, he barely had time to acquaint himself with the Stadio Luigi Ferraris, as his new employers immediately despatched him back to Argentina, where he joined San Lorenzo on a season-long loan.

Lavezzi did pretty well for the Buenos Aires-based outfit, which was lucky as back in Italy bad shit was going down at Genoa. The club had become embroiled in a match-fixing scandal which saw them relegated to Serie C1 meaning that, in summer 2005, Lavezzi joined San Lorenzo permanently for €1.2million.

“Lavezzi already had good qualities back then,” Genoa president Enrico Preziosi said in an interview earlier this year.

“We also had Diego Milito in our squad and we couldn’t afford to keep any of them. It was a real shame that we had to sell him. We would have been able to keep him here for two or three years.”

Genoa’s loss was very much San Lorenzo’s gain, the forward playing a key role as his team romped to the Closura title in 2006/07. A return to Europe was only a matter of time, and newly promoted Napoli coffed up €6million later that summer.

Here the spectre of Maradona, whose spell at the San Paolo is the stuff of legend, loomed large once more, but to his credit Lavezzi took it all in his stride, and together with another new recruit, Marek Hamsik, they established Napoli as a Serie A force to be reckoned with.

The arrival of the dashing Edison Cavani in the summer of 2010 brought together the attacking trio which would be known as the Three Tenors. Lavezzi, Hamsik and Cavani fired Walter Mazzarri’s side into the Champions League thanks to a third place finish in 2010/11, and it’s fair to say they were one of the most eye-catching teams in Europe last season. Lavezzi scored twice in their 3-1 first leg win over Chelsea in the last 16, but the eventual European Champions came through in the second leg to send Napoli crashing out.

Mazzarri believes Lavezzi has progressed dramatically during his time with Napoli: "Lavezzi has made ​​great strides," he said. "He is scoring with more consistency, he has matured and has become a champion."

“Cavani is a great player, but I think that Lavezzi is more important [to Napoli],” said former Azzurri coach Zednek Zemen. “[Napoli] are very good defensively and they are very impressive on the counter-attack thanks to the skills of Lavezzi.” 

Team-mates are also happy to join the Lavezzi love-in: "The Argentine is extraordinary," said Napoli striker Goran Pandev. "He has great technique and he’s magnificent in one-on-one situations.”

Linked with Chelsea and Manchester City last season, he has chosen instead to move to Paris, and will bring with him his missus, Yanina Screpante, who is definitely worth a google if you don’t know what she looks like.

“I'm here to win titles,” declared the forward at his unveiling. “Ligue 1 is a very competitive league. It's a new challenge for me, and I love putting myself to the test.

“I will do my best to have the same relationship with the Parisian fans that I had with the fans in Naples. I want to create a real link between us."

Only time will tell whether or not he succeeds on either front.

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