IAN LADYMAN: Poch is guaranteed glory at PSG but what will it prove?

IAN LADYMAN: Mauricio Pochettino is guaranteed glory at Paris St-Germain but what will it prove? At Tottenham he was always driven by punching upwards… he better make sure he wins, and wins big

  • Paris St-Germain have won seven of the last eight French league titles  
  • Mauricio Pochettino is favourite to take over after Thomas Tuchel was sacked 
  • But he was always driven by the challenge of punching upwards at Tottenham 
  • To the Argentine, the attraction is obvious as he would finally win trophies
  • He would need to not only win Ligue 1, but also the elusive Champions League  

Paris St-Germain have won seven of the last eight French league titles. The winning margins have been 12, 16, 13, 31, eight, nine and 12 points.

Unusually, PSG are not top of the league right now — they trail Lyon and Lille by a point — and they have just sacked manager Thomas Tuchel.

It is against this background that Mauricio Pochettino is favourite to take the job. Given how long we have waited for the former Spurs manager to assume a new post, it already feels underwhelming.

Former Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino is favourite to take the vacant PSG job

Given how long we have waited for him to assume a new post, it already feels underwhelming

During his time at Tottenham and Southampton, Pochettino was driven by the challenge of punching upwards, of upsetting the established order. With that in mind, taking the PSG job looks like a free hit.

The French league is not competitive. PSG’s wealth pretty much sees to that. Smaller clubs sometimes rest players against them because they know they cannot win. As such, titles for the biggest club in the country tend to run like oil.

To Pochettino, the attraction is obvious. He has been a manager for more than a decade and has not won anything. This move would change that. He would win in France and would eventually leave with an enhanced c.v.

To Pochettino, the attraction is obvious as he will finally win trophies and boost his c.v.

So we know why he may want to go there. Paris in spring, personal wealth, trophies. Yes, we get all that.

It is just that during his time in the Premier League, his impact really was quite profound. It seems a shame he has not only gone now, but he will not be back for a while.

It is already a year since he left Tottenham and the Premier League is poorer for his absence. Manchester United felt like the natural fit; a big club in need of modernising on and off the field; a club whose players would have benefited from the micro-management that shaped so many at his two English postings. It is no coincidence many players from Southampton and Spurs remain in touch with him.

But — for all their recent steps forward under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer — United’s loss may now be PSG’s gain. The only question is whether Pochettino can tick the one box left unchecked at the French club and win the Champions League.

From a broader perspective, that is the only significant thing he could do there, the only achievement that would set him apart from those who have passed before him — Tuchel, Unai Emery, Laurent Blanc and Carlo Ancelotti.

Pochettino was driven by challenge of punching upwards with Tottenham and Southampton

It would not be easy. At PSG, Pochettino would have some input in recruitment but his relationship with sporting director Leonardo would be crucial in that regard and may not be straightforward.

Despite his reputation for easy charm, there are those at Tottenham who will tell you of an altogether different and darker side when Pochettino doesn’t get what he wants.

Last season’s appearance in the Champions League final — where PSG lost 1-0 to Bayern Munich — was the club’s first. They topped their group this season and will play Barcelona next.

Pochettino would work with some rare players in Paris. Neymar and Kylian Mbappe are generational talents and it would be fascinating to observe his handling of both. But there are holes in the squad, while the challenge of competing in big European ties remains considerable for a squad who are rarely asked any proper questions — or asked to play under real pressure — in their domestic league.

The Pochettino we know likes to build a squad, a team, a style and a club in his own image. That may not be possible in Paris, where the outlook always feels short-term. So, if he does go there, he had better make sure he wins. And wins big.

Are Mike Ashley’s bad buys to blame at Newcastle? 

One of the anomalies of Mike Ashley’s parsimonious regime at Newcastle was the decision to spend £60million on forwards Miguel Almiron and Joelinton within six months of each other in 2019. 

Almiron came from MLS side Atlanta United and the Brazilian Joelinton arrived from Hoffenheim. Between them, they have scored eight Premier League goals in 110 appearances.

Say what you like about Steve Bruce and his team’s soporific football, but Newcastle would be a much better side had that money been spent properly. Bruce, it should be noted, did not sign either player.

Newcastle would be a much better side had that money been spent properly

Edinson Cavani proves he’s no Radamel Falcao 

When Manchester United signed Edinson Cavani in the summer, it seemed another desperate move by a club without a strategy in the market. It reminded me of the disastrous Radamel Falcao transfer in 2014, but this one already looks different.

Cavani appears to have come to the Premier League hungry and ready to work. His performance against Everton in the Carabao Cup was magnificent and his influence on the game spread far beyond a great goal.

He should have been sent off for a stupid shove on Yerry Mina. He was lucky. But his football was masterly and if he doesn’t make Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood better footballers, something will have gone wrong.

Cavani appears to have come to the Premier League hungry and ready to work at United

Thank you for sticking with us 

They say football without supporters is nothing. So too is journalism without readers.

Thanks, then, for sticking with The Verdict during this weird year. Thanks, too, for the emails.

And to the chap from Leeds who wrote in July, calling one item on this page ‘juvenile and unnecessary’. There was a day or two when we pondered using that as the strapline for the whole column.

Ian Ladyman: Juvenile and Unnecessary. It has a ring to it.

Happy New Year.

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