Will the Board’s Hardball Tactics Work?

The PSG board is no stranger to confrontation. In years gone by, they have been quick to release players and managers that they feel are no longer contributing to the level that they require. And all sentiment aside, it has worked out quite well. From their poker approach to contract negotiations to their willingness to go all-in when the timing is right, you really can’t fail them on the business side of things.

No Room For Sentiment

The recent news that club captain and legend Thiago Silva will be released at the end of his current contract came as quite the shock. Nevertheless, it was the right decision based on both business and footballing factors. And once the dust settled on the revelation, most PSG fans in their right minds fully agree with the club’s stance.

Silva’s release is nothing new. In 2016, there was no room for sentiment when, after elimination at the quarter-final stage of the Champions League, manager Laurent Blanc left the club by mutual consent.

That same year club legend Zlatan Ibrahimovic also left after the club and player agreed that it would be in everyone’s best interests. At the time, Ibra was the club’s record goal-scorer and in great form, so fans assumed the board would go all out to keep their man. They didn’t and instead, a year later made the biggest move in transfer history by signing the enigmatic Neymar.

It’s All About the Stats

Like a professional poker player, the board understands only too well the folly of trusting your gut. Instead, they take a much more analytical and logical approach to both player acquisition and retention. It’s the very basics of every poker strategy guide — make decisions based on logic, not emotion.

In the case of managers Blanc and Emery, the club understood that neither would have what it took to guide PSG club to European success. With Ibra, they knew that his heart was no longer in Paris and that he wanted to test himself in another league. They could have thrown all the money in the world at the Swede, but common sense (and history) told them that it wouldn’t work out.

In the case of Silva, while he is still a great player, he has lost the speed that once made him unbeatable. His stats may be impressive, but the tell-tale signs are there. This is a player in the twilight of his career, and players like that don’t win you Champions League titles. In this instance, like so many others, the board is 100 percent correct in their decision to play hardball and release the captain.

The same can be said of record goal-scorer Edison Cavani. It’s clear that he will leave at the end of the season, especially after the news that Mauro Icardi’s loan deal would be made permanent. It’s another example of the board’s poker approach to contract renewals. Do your best to collect the best cards you can, but discard those that are no longer useful.

But while the board’s hardball approach works well with underperforming managers and players in the twilight of their careers, what about those in their prime?

Will the Hardball Poker Approach Backfire?

The word on the street is that both of our superstars, Neymar and Kylian Mbappé, will stay beyond this current campaign. It’s music to the ears of us fans, as the vultures were said to be circling with both players in their sights.

Even so, the board was determined not to lose our two talismans. We all saw how they remained calm and measured in the face of constant transfer talk in 2019 and Neymar’s attempts to earn a transfer back to Barcelona. With a poker face that wouldn’t look out of place in the casinos of Monte Carlo, the board simply said ‘no’ and called Neymar’s bluff. Neymar stayed, knuckled down, and had a fantastic season that has resulted in a quarter-final berth in this year’s Champions League.

Neymar

LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP via Getty Images

Things have been a little different with Kylian Mbappé. The player has never once instigated any transfer talk, with most of his comments about his love for Klopp and Liverpool being taken wildly out of context. That said, he is the most complete striker in the world right now and it’s only a matter of time before the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona, or perhaps Juventus come calling.

The club has already intimated that there’s no chance of them selling Mbappé, but it will be interesting to see how they hold up under pressure when the inevitable bid comes. Should Juventus come in with a massive bid, will the player request a transfer? It’s hard to imagine that he would, but stranger things have happened in the past.

The board will no doubt stay true to form and refuse to sell unless it suits all parties involved. But with transfer fees looking set to fall significantly over the next year or so, it’s doubtful that any bid would top the world record fee we paid for Neymar. And that is the crux of the matter. In this game of transfer poker, the board knows that it holds all the cards. The player is on a long contract and the club are under no pressure to sell.

The only situation where we can see the board’s tactics failing to pay off would be in the case of a player mutiny. But as we saw from Neymar’s attempts in the summer of 2019, that kind of behaviour won’t wash with the club. Only an all-out strike would work, but we really can’t see either player jeopardizing their careers by taking on the club in such a way.

Will the hardball approach work? It has done so far and there’s nothing to suggest that it won’t continue to do so in the future.

Tags Barcelona Edinson Cavani Kylian Mbappé Mauro Icardi Neymar Thiago Silva Zlatan Ibrahimovic