PSG sound out Villas-Boas

Andre Villas-Boas could end up replacing Unai Emery at Paris Saint-Germain. (Shutterstock)
Updated 14 December 2017
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PSG sound out Villas-Boas

LONDON: Paris Saint-Germain have contacted Andre Villas-Boas as the Qatar-owned club prepares the ground to replace Unai Emery as coach. According to sources close to the former FC Porto, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur coach, PSG sporting director Antero Henrique has asked to be kept informed of Villas-Boas’ plans to return to management.
The 40-year-old left Shanghai SIPG last month after the club finished as runners-up in both the Chinese Super League and FA Cup. Having preceded his single-season spell in Asia with Russian Premier League and Cup successes at Zenit Saint Petersburg, Villas-Boas wants to return to coaching in one of Western Europe’s leading leagues.
Villas-Boas came close to accepting an offer from PSG to succeed a Real Madrid-bound Carlo Ancelotti in 2013, ultimately opting to continue into a second season at Tottenham. The proposal came from club president Nasser Al-Khelaifi, whom the Portuguese knew well from working together for the Al Jazeera Media Network. PSG were ready to use a £10 million release clause in his contract with the English Premier League club.
“With Nasser, we have respect for each other,” said Villas-Boas later that year. “That PSG approached me was released (publicly), but I wanted to stay a second year in Tottenham, building on the work of last season, making two consecutive seasons in the same club for the first time in my career. I wanted to continue the project here.”
Villas-Boas’ relationship with Antero is closer still, stretching back to two spells working together at Porto, the first as an assistant to Jose Mourinho, the second as coach of their 2010-11 Primeira Liga, Taca de Portugal and Europa League treble winning team. Villas-Boas and the sporting director’s friendship is such that they have taken family holidays together.
PSG have been unimpressed with Emery’s handling of an already expensively assembled squad that was supplemented with the global record signings of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe in the summer. Neymar’s working relationship with Emery has been particularly fractious, including a public dispute over set-piece duties, absence from two unappealing away games with what the club described as minor injuries, and a complaint from the Brazil international that he should be allowed to choose which fixtures he plays in.
A broader discontent among the PSG squad fed into successive losses at Racing Strasbourg and Bayern Munich at the beginning of this month. Al-Khelaifi responded to the Ligue 1 and Champions League losses (the first of the Parisians’ campaign) with a public statement of Qatar’s dissatisfaction.
“We didn’t perform,” said Al-Khelaifi after the 3-1 defeat in Germany. “I am very disappointed about the result, the quality of our play, especially in the first half. I am optimistic for the future, but we didn’t play as well as we could have done in this match. It is a lesson for everybody.”
Antero has been working on securing a replacement for Emery for months, and has made it clear that there are jobs for Mourinho and his highly-valued assistant Rui Faria in Paris in the summer should they want them. Since Oryx Qatar Sports Investments took control of PSG in the summer of 2011, Mourinho has been offered, and turned down, the opportunity to manage on at least three occasions, and was very close to taking the job in 2016 before eventually agreeing terms with Manchester United.
While Antero is aware that Mourinho remains the preferred option of his employers, he has also prepared alternative appointments, as well as a contingency plan to replace Emery mid-season should results or team harmony demand it. Villas-Boas — who is understood to be ready to take a project like PSG’s on an initial short-term contract if necessary — would be a good fit to such circumstances. Antero has asked his friend not to accept an offer from any other suitor without first informing him.
At present, Villas-Boas is preparing to fulfil a long-held ambition to drive the Dakar Rally. The car and motorcycle enthusiast has been registered as Ruben Faria’s co-driver for the 15-day rally, which begins in Peru on Jan. 6.
 


Ahmed Barman out to toast Al-Ain success in FIFA Club World Cup

Updated 11 December 2018
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Ahmed Barman out to toast Al-Ain success in FIFA Club World Cup

  • Tournament gets under way on Wednesday when Al-Ain take on Team Wellington at home.
  • UAE midfielder sure his side can cause a few shocks.

LONDON: While he is only too aware of the quality opposition they have to face, Al-Ain midfielder Ahmed Barman is backing “The Boss” to scare a few teams in the FIFA Club World Cup.
The tournament gets under way when the UAE outfit face Team Wellington on their home ground in the opener today. Last year saw fellow Arabian Gulf League side Al-Jazira reach the semifinal where they gave Real Madrid a huge fright before narrowly losing 2-1. And inspired by that march to the last four, Barman is looking for Al-Ain to go one better and become the first Emirati side to make the final.
“The FIFA Club World Cup is a global competition coveted by every club,” Barman said. “Al-Ahli, Al-Jazira and Al-Wahda participated in this tournament before and did their part, putting the UAE on the world map. We at Al-Ain hope to reach the semi-final, as Al-Jazira did, or do even better.”
Before any tournament it is only natural to dream of glory and lifting the trophy in front of adoring fans. But the midfielder is not getting too cocky, revealing that despite having home advantage Al-Ain are taking absolutely nothing for granted, starting with Wednesday’s clash against the Kiwis.
“There’s no doubt that we’re aiming to reach the final and face a giant like Real Madrid, but first we have to focus on our opening match against Team Wellington,” the 24-year-old said.
“We need to win to progress from this round and play the subsequent games until we reach the final against Real Madrid and show a standard of play the UAE can be proud of.”
Barman is not anticipating an easy opener.
“Team Wellington are a very good team with considerable ability. They won their local league and the OFC Champions League, which proves they’re powerful.
“So, all our focus is on this opening match. We’re annualizing our opponents to understand their capabilities as we prepare to perform well on the pitch and get positive result.”
The UAE champions did not have the best preparation for their stab at Club World Cup glory, losing 5-2 to Al-Wasl in the UAE President’s Cup at the weekend.
That result, while clearly not ideal, has not bothered the side’s coach.
“We cannot win every game, what is gone is gone, it’s full concentration on the match ahead,” Zoran Mamic said.
“There are no rules that Al-Ain cannot lose games, that’s why I don’t make any drama.”
But while Barman was keen to invoke the memory of Al-Jazira’s march to the last four, his boss was less so, telling his team to focus on the match at hand before getting ahead of themselves.
“We are not here to talk about last year, just as we are not here to talk about the future,” the Croatian said. “We are here to represent the club in the best possible way. We focus on the match at hand and everything will take care of itself.”
Of today’s opponents he added: “We have watched all their games, we know their strengths and where they are not so strong. They are particularly good offensively, they play with fast wingers and a striker who is a good scorer, they play a system that is unusual to us because no teams in the Emirates play with three in the last line. If we do our job we will (have) a good match.”