extension of Mbappé, downsizing of the workforce, divorce with the ultras… A future in five questions

Titled for the tenth time in its history without convincing and without outpouring, Saturday April 23, at the Parc des Princes, after its draw against Lens (1-1), Paris is again at a crossroads. His quack in the quarter-finals of the Champions League against Real Madrid remained in everyone’s mind, including in Qatar where the shareholder is preparing a new action plan of which the extension of Kylian Mbappé is the cornerstone.

Kylian Mbappé, a crucial extension?

For more than a year, the soap opera of the extension or the departure of Kylian Mbappé has been feeding the gazettes and the Parisian counters. In two months, at the expiration of his contract, the striker will no longer be linked with PSG, while he is already free to commit where he wants since January. Real Madrid is making eyes at him with an almost blank checkbook. Not enough to scare the financiers of Qatar who received the top scorer (22) and passer from PSG (14) and his clan a few days ago.

During the reception of Bordeaux at the Parc des Princes, just after the elimination in the Champions League, the ultras of PSG unfurl banners with an explicit message with regard to the management of the club, on March 13, 2022. (ALAIN JOCARD / AFP)

“He’s still in a moment of reflection, I think he’s thinking, explained sporting director Leonardo on Saturday. I think there is a possibility that he will stay.” From the signing of Mbappé, in charge of PSG this season, on a new contract come a lot of things. In terms of image and sporting guarantees, keeping the tricolor star would give credit to the future Parisian project while Neymar and Messi have remained in the shadow of the Frenchman this season. His departure, on the other hand, would be experienced as a terrible brake and could accentuate the fracture with the supporters.

Soon a replacement for Pochettino?

If the situation of Kylian Mbappé should have no impact on the future of Mauricio Pochettino at PSG, it nevertheless conditions the name of his future replacement. Because the case of the Argentine technician seems well and truly settled, even if he claims to want to go to the end of his contract which runs until 2023 and to indicate that “expectations and desire are always to do the best”.

Mauricio Pochettino, Nasser El-Khelaïfi and Leonardo during a training session at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium before Real Madrid-PSG.  (GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

His employers remain unsatisfied with the record posted since his arrival at the start of 2021 (a Coupe de France, a champions trophy and a championship) and the low level of play produced recurrently throughout the season that Mbappé has often hidden by his talent alone. “Poche” has never managed to give a real identity to his team and the elimination in the quarter-finals of the C1 remains an indelible stain. With Mbappé at the forefront of an XXL workforce, Paris would be better able to attract a posh technician. Still have to find it among the stars of the bench available, if it exists? The only one who would tick all the boxes is Zinedine Zidane…

Is Leonardo threatened?

Does Leonardo feel in the hot seat? While we have known him to be more offensive in the face of the press, it is a mea culpa that he sketched on Saturday at the microphone of Canal + Décalé. “I made mistakes, recognized the Brazilian sports director of PSG. SIf you make choices, it can influence the result… Mistakes in general, it can be recruitment, it can be management, my behavior, I talk about myself like I talk about everyone. Everyone has their influence in a season, we have to assume.“At the end of this “wobbly” season, he crystallized the resentment of the supporters who took the direction in dislike and consider it partly guilty of the situation.

Since returning to Paris in 2019, ‘Leo’ has failed to place the club where his ambition drives him. The Champions League remains a recurring failure and certain choices continue to be questioned. From star management to the arrival of a precariously-conditioned Sergio Ramos to the ghost of Lionel Messi, the Brazilian is at the heart of some of PSG’s ills. In Doha, despite his good relations with the Emir, one might be tempted to push him out.

Major upheaval in the workforce?

It’s not just the Mbappé case that agitates the PSG locker room. Despite a workforce built with millions of euros, many shortcomings have appeared over the season. The paucity of the Parisian game and individual errors should cause a major overhaul this summer, made possible in particular by the relief of UEFA’s financial fair play. The first priority will be to separate several players and settle the case of the goalkeepers. Indisputable holder in recent seasons, Keylor Navas has become a luxury lining for Gianluigi Donnarumma who has made a few mistakes, especially against Real Madrid in the Champions League. This did not escape the Costa Rican, 35, who wants “play all matches“and lives badly this”complicated situation“.”I’m happy in Paris, but that has to change“warned the goalkeeper who could pack his bags this summer.”It was not easy to live, neither for him, nor for me“, echoed the Italian doorman.

The cordial agreement between Keylor Navas and Gianluigi Donnarumma, during the 2021-2022 season, did not delight the two goalkeepers, here during the PSG match against Lens on April 23, 2022. (BERTRAND GUAY / AFP)

Sergio Ramos (36) has seen his season truncated by injuries while the club would also seek to part with players with limited performance and playing time: Angel Di Maria, Mauro Icardi, Thilo Kehrer, Julian Draxler, Colin Dagba and Layvin Kurzawa. If we add the end of the contract (2024) of Marquinhos, Verratti and Kimpembe, PSG’s summer still promises to be very eventful, with however the same pitfall to avoid as during previous transfer windows: building a team rather than stacking the stars.

Divorce consummated with the supporters?

The rag has been burning between PSG and its ultras for a long time. On Saturday, a week after taking the encouragement strike during the Classic against OM, when their club won the tenth title in their history, some of the ultras decided to go and celebrate this “decima” outside the Princes Park. The players stayed in their corner before opening the champagne in the locker room. “It’s a shame for the atmosphere, but football is our passion. We try to have as much fun as possible, it’s a shame it’s not with the supporters”, regretted Captain Marquinhos at the microphone of Canal + Décalé.

Parisian supporters celebrate PSG's tenth title outside the Parc des Princes on April 23, 2022. (JULIEN DE ROSA / AFP)

Among the grievances of Parisian fans, the failure of too many in the Champions League and intermittent performances with regard to the status of players in the capital. Mid-March, for the first time since the arrival of the Qataris, the ultras asked for the resignation of the management. Neymar and Messi, whose investment raises questions, were then booed like the majority of the team. Only Mbappé escapes criticism, but his departure could trigger a much larger wave of hostilities. How will the celebration planned for May 21 against Metz go?

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