After strong rumours this week of Paris Saint-Germain contacting Antonio Conte’s representatives with a view to the Italian taking charge at the end of the season, it appears Unai Emery’s time in The City of Lights has come to an end.
The ex-Sevilla manager moved to the Parc des Princes after lifting three consecutive Europa League trophies, as well as guiding the Spanish side to impressive, consistent finishes in La Liga. However, in Emery’s two years at PSG the French club have been knocked out of the Champions League at the Round of 16 hurdle twice, the first year witnessing Barcelona’s improbable comeback after a 4-0 defeat in France.
Emery’s future has hung in the balance since the defeat to the Catalans, and Thomas Meunier’s recent comments to the press seem to confirm that the Spanish tactician is to leave after PSG lift the Ligue 1 trophy in May. The Belgian international has fallen behind veteran Dani Alves in the pecking order at full-back, and stated that he needed ‘clarity’ about his future in Paris.
“I am no longer 18. I am 26. I am in clear possession of my ability. I need some clarity in my position at club level. I must also keep showing the things that I know how to do.
“PSG know my position. However I am waiting because many things, such as the coach, will change.”
The manager’s apparent inability to lead PSG on a serious European charge will see him depart at the end of the season, meaning the search for a new manager has begun.
Strong rumours suggest that club president Nasser Al-Khelaifi has a four-man shortlist for the vacant role at the helm of the club: Antonio Conte, Massimiliano Allegri, Diego Simeone and Jose Mourinho. Each coach possesses their strengths and drawbacks, and certainly none will be easy to prise away from their current ventures.
Conte has made no secret of his fractured relationship with the Chelsea board, and is fully expected to leave Stamford Bridge at the end of the season, despite leading the Blues to the Premier League title during his first season in England. However, the Italian FA’s vice-commissioner, Alessandro Costacurta, has recently said that Conte may be the best fit for the national team and is expected to discuss the position with the Chelsea manager in the near future.
Emery’s uncertain decision making has caused him to fall out of favour with the PSG hierarchy, after high-profile tactical blunders and questionable team selections, Thiago Silva finding himself dropped in some of the club’s biggest games this campaign. In comparison, Conte’s excellent man-management skills and shrewd tactical knowledge may make him the man able to lead the Parisians on a charge towards the Champions League summit.
As for the other choices on PSG’s shortlist, the only other seemingly viable name is Jose Mourinho. The Portuguese coach has endured a mixed tenure at Manchester United, with last season’s sixth place finish in the Premier League proving an unwanted mark next to Carabao Cup and Europa League triumphs. This campaign sees the Old Trafford club closing in on securing second place, but only after a shocking Champions League elimination at the hands of struggling Sevilla.
Mourinho undoubtedly holds the pedigree on the European stage, as seen in his two prior successes in the competition, but the limp attacking performance against the Spaniards could be off putting for Al-Khelaifi. Manchester United’s attacking talent have appeared stunted in performances under the Portuguese, with concerns potentially spreading to Paris that the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Neymar and Angel di Maria would not be given sufficient freedom to express themselves.
But in comparison to Conte, Mourinho is arguably enjoying a more successful year. Lapse Chelsea performances have often ended in poor results, whereas United still seem capable of grinding out positive results even when outplayed.
Mourinho’s transfers have also ranged from successful to average during his time at Old Trafford, compared to Conte’s acquisitions – albeit many of them not the players that the Italian had wanted to bring in. The lack of desire to spend lavishly at Stamford Bridge will likely see Conte depart, and he will be guaranteed a seemingly endless pit of finance should he sign along the dotted line for Paris Saint-Germain.
The search for the club’s new manager is likely to boil down to the two aforementioned coaches, both of whom are undeniably elite tacticians who have proven themselves in their many roles. But whoever is chosen will have hefty expectations placed on them: triumph in Ligue 1, in a domestic competition, and a much-needed resurgence in the Champions League. Should they fail, and the managerial merry-go-round at the Parc des Princes may be fired into motion once again.