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.
Heartbreak for Mohamed Salah and Egypt as Russia all but secure last-16 spot
ST. PETERSBURG: Russia scored three goals in a 15-minute span early in the second half to set up a 3-1 win over Egypt on Tuesday, moving the host nation to the brink of the World Cup’s knockout stage.
Mohamed Salah won and converted a penalty for a consolation goal on his return from injury but Egypt’s first World Cup in 28 years could be over in barely five days following a second straight loss.
Ahmed Fathi poked the ball into his own net — the fifth own-goal of the tournament — to put Russia ahead in the 47th minute. Then Denis Cheryshev and Artyom Dzyuba scored in quick succession to leave Russia on course for a victory that followed up a 5-0 opening-night win over Saudi Arabia.
It was Cheryshev’s third goal of the World Cup, putting him tied with Cristiano Ronaldo at the top of the scoring chart.
Russia’s place in the round of 16 will be assured if Uruguay wins or draws against the Saudis on Wednesday. Those two scenarios would also eliminate Egypt, which started with a 1-0 loss to Uruguay.
The hopes of 100 million Egyptians were raised when Salah was selected in the starting lineup, the Liverpool forward making his comeback after 3 1/2 weeks out with damaged ligaments in his left shoulder after a tangle with Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos in the Champions League final.
Salah trotted out for his pre-match warmup to roars from Egypt fans, who at times appeared to outnumber their Russian counterparts. They shouted every time Salah’s face flashed up on the big screen and when his name was announced before kickoff.
Yet from the start, it was clear that Salah was staying out of anything too physical and there was no concerted effort from his Egypt teammates to pick him out each time. He didn’t touch the ball until the seventh minute.
He did win the penalty — confirmed by the video assistant referee after Salah was pulled down by Roman Zobnin. He converted it in the 73rd minute, but it wasn’t enough. Egypt is still without a victory in six World Cup matches.
Russia is nearly assured of advancing from the group stage for the first time since the Soviet era.
Cheryshev, who entered the World Cup as a fringe player, is proving lethal in front of goal, with his latest a side-footed effort from close range from Mario Fernandes’ cross in the 59th. Dzyuba’s goal was more direct, the striker chesting down a long ball from defender Ilya Kutepov, beating his marker and curling home a low finish.