Pochettino leaves PSG: Paris Saint-Germain still a poisoned chalice but failure need not define ex-Spurs boss

·4 min read

Well that was all a bit forgettable, wasn't it?

Mauricio Pochettino is no longer Paris Saint-Germain head coach after the two parties agreed to part ways.

The club confirmed their parting on Tuesday, with former Lille and Nice coach Christophe Galtier expected to come in as his replacement.

Pochettino was an appointment that excited many and seemed to promise much, given the fine job the Argentine had previously done at Tottenham.

But as it transpired, he simply became the latest in a succession of top-class coaches to fall short of PSG's ultimate goal: winning the Champions League.

Frankly, when rumours of Pochettino's departure began to swirl in June, few would have been surprised. In reality, he's looked close to the brink for most of his 18 months in charge – some might even suggest he's lucky to have lasted this long.

Success tempered by failure

Let's not forget, the mighty PSG were pipped to the Ligue 1 title by Lille in the 2020-21 campaign, a few months into Pochettino's reign. His brief time in charge clearly wasn't seen as much of an excuse given there were reports claiming his job was already under threat by April 2021.

Talk of a potential return to Tottenham surfaced and then evaporated as PSG seemingly opted to stand by him, with the fact he got them to the Champions League semi-finals potentially showing there was a reason for optimism.

And then there was the connection with fellow Rosario-native and boyhood Newell's Old Boys fan Lionel Messi. Keeping Pochettino around surely couldn't do any harm with respect to helping the six-time Ballon d'Or winner settle in Paris.

While Pochettino can't solely be blamed for Messi not hitting similar heights to his Barcelona days, it's fair to say their connection has proven only anecdotal.

Of course, Pochettino does depart having won three trophies, including this season's Ligue 1 title. But at PSG, that is not even the bare minimum these days if good progress isn't made in Europe.

Were it not for Karim Benzema's almost superhuman exploits in the Champions League this season, who knows how far PSG would have gone?

They were 2-0 up on aggregate thanks to Kylian Mbappe's brilliance, but then Benzema took over. His 17-minute hat-trick in the second half of the second leg turned the tie on its head, and Madrid went on to enjoy similarly great escapes against Chelsea and Manchester City before beating Liverpool in the final.

Maybe that could have been PSG, but instead they were dumped out in the round of 16 for the fourth time in six seasons. The writing was on the wall for Pochettino.

A risk-free move or thankless task?

Joining Manchester United seemed to make sense as they stepped up their search for a permanent replacement for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, but Erik ten Hag was ultimately the chosen one, robbing PSG of an easy solution to their problem.

It might be going too far to suggest Pochettino's reputation hasn't been damaged by a lack of (European) success and finishing second in Ligue 1 last season. After all, he has arguably underachieved – but in the context of PSG since the takeover, which coaches haven't?

Former PSG boss Carlo Ancelotti has now won the Champions League twice since leaving the Parisians. Unai Emery took Villarreal to the semi-finals this season. Thomas Tuchel won the competition with Chelsea just a few months after being shown the exit.

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While the point isn't necessarily that PSG were wrong to let Ancelotti leave or get rid of Emery and Tuchel when they did. Rather, Pochettino's inability to end the club's Champions League wait needn't define him or colour his reputation.

Pochettino will likely still be sought after the next time one of Europe's biggest clubs is on the look-out for a new head coach, because to succeed at PSG is arguably one of the toughest tasks in football.

Sure, they sit on a pit of money and it seems like they enjoy a clean sweep of the domestic trophies most years, but the gulf to the rest of Ligue 1 is generally so massive that there's a degree of PSG almost being underprepared when heading into European competition.

Perhaps Pochettino was wrong to take the job in the first place. Given their tendency to throw money around with little regard, placing greatest importance on big-reputation signings, there was always likely to be an element of the club being mismatched with a coach whose teams are typically hard-working. But he'd have seen it almost as a free pass.

Ironically, PSG have now insisted they are looking to change their ways, and move away from "bling-bling" signings. Even the possibility of Cristiano Ronaldo potentially becoming available is reportedly not interesting them. We'll see how long that lasts, though.

PSG is a poisoned chalice, but as Pochettino's predecessors have shown, failure at the Parc des Princes needn't be his ruin. It's Galtier's problem now.

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