Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Leonardo's resignation leaves PSG with questions to answer

Having already managed to shed a manager since the end of last season, Paris Saint-Germain now find themselves without a Sporting Director after news broke this morning of Leonardo’s resignation.

“We regret his choice but respect his decision,” said a brief club statement. “We thank him greatly for his important contributions towards the project of building a top European Club in Paris and wish him all the best for his future career choice.”

Leo’s two years at the Parc-des-Princes have certainly been eventful, and not without some success. His capture of Javier Pastore from under the noses of Chelsea in August 2011 signalled PSG’s new status as a major power in European football, and though that transfer hasn’t worked out particularly well, his eye-catching double purchase of Thiago Silva and Zlatan Ibrahimovic from AC Milan last summer paid off in spades, with the team winning the title and making a good impact in their first season in the Champions League. His contacts in the Italian also must’ve helped in securing emerging talents like Salvatore Sirigu and Marco Verratti.

But overall his record in the transfer market hasn’t been that great. For every Sirigu there is a Van der Wiel, for every Silva a Lugano, and it has often seemed PSG are happy to throw money at established-but-average foreign players rather than pick up domestic talent.

Previously a smiley, likeable, type, Leonardo has also shown an uglier side of his character over the last couple of years. His comments in the media have at times been bizarre, and you often get the impression that he thinks French domestic football is beneath him. That’s before you even get on to the business of him, er, pushing a referee over and getting banned from all football for a year.

It’s also reasonable to assume that Leo’s behaviour was at least partly to blame for Carlo Ancelotti’s departure, as his not-very-discreet courting of other managers at various points last season must’ve left Carletto feeling distinctly undermined. Nasser Al-Khelaifi and QSI must now be thinking that they backed the wrong horse in that respect.

So in the long-term I think we’ll probably be better off without Leo, but in the short-term his departure so soon after Ancelotti’s isn’t ideal, and does raise a number of questions.

Leo had built a team with a South American core and strong links to Serie A. Do they bring in a Sporting Director who will continue in this vein? Or is it time to go in another direction? Is Project Wenger still on? And if so, is there any point getting another Sporting Director in until next summer, or can we do without?

What does Leo leaving mean for current members of the squad? It’s common knowledge that Zlatan isn’t his biggest fan, so he probably won’t be too fussed, but Thiago Silva is another matter. The recent stories linking the defender with Barcelona could turn from rumour to fact given the close relationship that supposedly exists between the two Brazilians. Will the Edinson Cavani deal, which has been all-but done for about a week but is still not finalised, be affected? Lots of questions, and at the moment not many answers.

One man who probably is happy about Leo going is Laurent Blanc, as the news has overshadowed the fact that PSG’s pre-season campaign began in inauspicious fashion yesterday, with a 3-1 defeat to Sturm Graz in Austria. Young striker Hervin Ongenda, who recently signed his first professional contract, got the PSG goal in the second half with a rather delicious chip.

"We were worse than average tonight,” said Blanc. “We knew it was going to be tough because we were up against a side that began preseason training three weeks ago and begins their season next week.

“We will analyse what happened in this match, but this result will not change anything of our preseason."


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