Since Qatar Sports Investments took control of Paris Saint-Germain seven years ago, three managers – Carlo Ancelotti, Laurent Blanc and Unai Emery – have tried, and failed, to bring the Champions League trophy to Paris.
All have experienced domestic success – winning a total of five Ligue 1 titles, four Coupe de Frances and five Coupe de la Ligue between them. But all came to realise that failure to achieve the owners’ ultimate ambitions would end their association with the club.
Next up to the plate is the intense and innovative Thomas Tuchel. Can the highly regarded, although not highly decorated, German succeed where the others failed?
For the new man, the season has started well on the pitch. The August crushing of Monaco in the Trophee des Champions presented him with an early season trinket (to add to his one German Cup win with Borussia Dortmund) and has been followed by five wins from five in Ligue 1.
The latest victory was a serene 4-0 win over previously unbeaten St. Etienne on Friday evening. The result was hardly unexpected, but it was notable given that it was earned without the services of the club’s two superstar strikers, Killian Mbappe and Neymar.
The champions barely had to get out of second gear on the night. And given how their most likely challengers – Lyon, Marseilles and the aforementioned Monaco – have struggled to get out of the starting blocks this term, second gear might be enough to see them win a sixth Ligue title in seven seasons.
Given Tuchel’s competitive streak, he’ll probably be somewhat disappointed. Yes, an easy ride at home will allow him to keep key players fresh for a serious Champions League assault. But on the flipside, couldn’t his charges become a little soft? Wouldn’t a battle-hardened outfit be a stronger prospect in Europe?
And its Europe PSG must turn to on Tuesday, as the they take on Liverpool, last season’s beaten finalists. If Ligue 1 threatens to be a cakewalk, Group C in the Champions League looks quite the opposite. Klopp’s men are clearly a threat, but the presence of Carlo Ancelotti’s Napoli makes this probably the most compelling and competitive of the tournament’s groups.
Qualification for the knockout stages can’t be taken for granted. Tuchel’s men will need to be at it from the off.
Off the field, things haven’t run quite as smoothly. The 45-year-old has already expressed his disappointment at the club’s summer transfer business, most particularly the failure to acquire the services of key targets Jerome Boateng and N’Golo Kante.
With Thiago Silva in slow decline, Thiago Motta retired and Marco Verratti a regular in the treatment room, the club’s failure to bring both players in may become a serious topic of conversation as the season unfolds.
The shadow of UEFA’s Financial Fair Play investigation into the deals that brought Neymar and Mbappe to Paris played a role in the quiet nature of PSG’s recent transfer activity – where low-key signings and free transfers were the order of the day over the summer, while a number of players have been jettisoned across successive windows to help balance the books.
But then Tuchel shouldn’t expect any sympathy from the club’s rivals at home or abroad as a result. PSG still possess serious talent – even if the squad won’t be appreciably stronger than the one Emery left behind.
But perhaps as Edinson Cavani suggested last summer, bringing in more star quality isn’t necessarily the answer anyway. For the Uruguayan, it’s been a lack of togetherness rather than any lack of quality that has held PSG back when the European hammer has come down.
That line of thought should give the mega rich visiting delegation pause for thought as they watch on at Anfield tomorrow night. After all, the Red resurrection under Jurgen Klopp has been an object lesson in what can happen when players are prepared to run through walls for their manager and, perhaps more crucially, for each other.
If Tuchel can inspire that kind of unity of purpose at the Parc de Princes, then maybe he can take the French giants where his predecessors could not.