HH: What do you imagine was the overall feeling among PSG supporters once PSG officially announced Mauricio Pochettino as manager?
Shock. If I had to guess, most PSG supporters wanted a change as the team clearly had stalled following the Champions League final loss to Bayern. But, I don’t think we imagined it would happen so soon. There’s also a contingent of supporters who thought Thomas Tuchel was the right man for the job and deserved to finish out his contract, which expired at the end of the season.
HH: Out of interest, what other names do you believe were seriously in the frame for the job?
Everything I read pointed to Thiago Motta, a former PSG player who failed at Genoa in Serie A, and Massimiliano Allegri. I don’t think anyone else outside these two and Pochettino were considered for the job.
HH: The January transfer window is open; at Tottenham Pochettino had zero say in transfers, he went as far as telling the press that perhaps his job title should be changed to reflect that. Are you hopeful he will get a chance to spend with you, or will he get what’s given, again?
A little bit of both. Leonardo, PSG’s sporting director, is definitely the man calling the shots at PSG. He’s the one that sacked Thomas Tuchel, and he will likely have the ultimate say in transfers. That’s not to say Pochettino won’t have input though. It’s an interesting situation at PSG regarding transfers because right now, the focus is more on keeping players than selling them. Both Neymar and Mbappé are on contracts that expire in 2022 so the priority is making sure both sign extensions.
HH: Poch got away with murder at Spurs. He treated domestic cups with undisguised contempt, ended up winning nothing and instead found a place in some fans’ hearts by delivering entertaining football – for a while at least. What hard and fast demands will the PSG board make of him, or will he be able to potter about for another four and a half years?
At PSG, Poch will be expected to win everything in France and reach the quarter-finals of the Champions League as the bare minimum. He will also be expected to reinvent PSG’s offence and play attractive football. This is a glamour club and when you spend half a billion on two players, you expect a lot of goals and entertaining matches. This is why I’ve always said PSG is the most difficult job in football. Poch may be a former captain but make no mistake about it, PSG will sack him before his contract expires if things don’t work out.
HH: I couldn’t believe Mauricio had actually signed an 18-month contract. This is 6-months shorter than both his predecessors. This is surely a term for an experienced manager, to come in and prove himself as an immediate, hit-the-ground-running type. Do you believe the pressure will be on the Argentine to deliver silverware, or is this a signal that PSG are looking for a more ‘philosophical’ rebuild of the club?
You’re right that both Unai Emery and Tuchel were given two-year deals while Pochettino was given an 18-month term. PSG’s future is very much up in the air as no one knows what will happen with Neymar and Mbappé. So, it makes sense that Pochettino’s contract coincides with when their deals expire in June 2022. Perhaps if Mbappé and Neymar sign extensions this summer, and PSG reaches, let’s say the semi-finals, that Pochettino will receive an extension as well (his current deal does include an option for another year). He has to win and do some playing attractive football though. PSG sacked Tuchel four months after reaching the Champions League final. The pressure is on. That said, I can also foresee a philosophical rebuild at the club. In his first training session, Poch brought in a lot of PSG’s talented youngsters (the city of Paris is a hotbed for football talent). Many of these players often leave for more playing time elsewhere, but perhaps he is the man to bring them into the first team and convince them to stick around.