PSG will find a way to get their man Mourinho
PSG will find a way to get their man Mourinho
Until the nervously anticipated moment when Lionel Messi decides whether to actually put his signature on a new Barcelona contract or take the riches on offer elsewhere, PSG should continue to have the highest salary ever paid to one footballer on their jealously scrutinized books. Neymar and Kylian Mbappe — coveted by Real Madrid, Manchester City, Manchester United and other fiscal behemoths of European football — both opted to join PSG.
Qatar, however, did not invest unprecedented sums in its Parisian football fiefdom simply to be recognized, and by many reviled, for redrafting the ground rules of elite-player recruitment. The Gulf state wants to add the club game’s most prestigious prize to the World Cup Finals it bought from FIFA at the beginning of this decade.
That intention to take the Champions League is the ultimate explanation as to why PSG want to hire Jose Mourinho as their manager. Their interest is as long standing as Qatar’s ownership of the French club. Since they took control in the summer of 2011, Mourinho has been offered, and turned down, the opportunity to manage PSG on at least three occasions.
In 2016 as Manchester United’s board stalled on replacing the failing Louis van Gaal with his erstwhile assistant, Mourinho came close to accepting one such offer. “Jose had one foot and a half in PSG,” said a close friend. “He almost went there.” Instead the Portuguese agreed terms at Old Trafford, immediately leading the English club to a League Cup and Europa League double.
PSG’s interest in the serial silverware winner, however, remains. Last summer the club appointed Antero Henrique as its sporting director. Hired from FC Porto, the Portuguese executive played a pivotal role in convincing Neymar (pictured) to buy out his Barcelona contract, Dani Alves to turn his back on Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City on the full back’s wedding day, and Mbappe to withdraw from a verbal agreement to join Real Madrid.
While Antero’s work was helped by the money at his disposal, individuals familiar with the negotiations credit the executive with providing the human touch required to convince all three to commit to controversial and unpopular moves. PSG had attempted to hire Neymar before; Antero closed a deal predecessors could not.
Fast forward a few months in the life of the new FC Hollywood. Neymar has been involved in an inelegant on-field tussle with Edinson Cavani over penalty taking rights, apparently developing a toe injury that saw the Brazilian miss PSG’s next game (a first Ligue 1 fixture where points were dropped). Last week Neymar argued with Unai Emery over the coach’s training regime then was sent off for squaring up to an opponent in Sunday’s draw at Olympique Marseille.
Emery is struggling to manage PSG’s ego-laden squad. “The coach is having many problems handling the team,” said one source. “He is not getting the players’ respect.” It is certainly of no assistance to the Spaniard that every one of those players knows their coach’s job is on the line.
Antero has been working on an upgrade, and has made it clear that there are jobs for Mourinho and his highly regarded assistant Rui Faria in Paris next summer should his compatriots wish to take them. PSG’s sporting director has known both for years, working alongside them as they guided Porto to back-to-back Portuguese titles, the UEFA Cup and a Champions League between 2002 and 2004.
It is that last, most glittering of prizes that Antero was hired to deliver, and why he’s targeted the coaches most qualified to deliver it. If Manchester United want to beat PSG to the Champions League punch they’d be advised to do all they can to support Mourinho in his efforts to bring it back to Old Trafford.
Luka Modric wins world player of year, ends Ronaldo-Messi duology
LONDON: Luka Modric has broken a decade of award dominance by Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi after being crowned world footballer of the year by FIFA, while Marta won the women’s award for a sixth time.
Modric was voted FIFA’s best player in the 2017-18 season after winning the Champions League for a fourth time in five seasons with Real Madrid and leading Croatia to its first World Cup final where it lost to France.
Messi and Ronaldo have been the only winners of world soccer’s main individual award from FIFA in various guises since 2008, both winning five titles each.
Messi didn’t make the three-man shortlist and skipped the trip to London. Ronaldo was shortlisted but also didn’t turn up at the ceremony to be dethroned in person by his former Real Madrid teammate. Egypt forward Mohamed Salah also made the top three for the first time.