Yet another disappointing UEFA Champions League campaign and some less than impressive domestic performances mean that the speculation about the end of the Mauricio Pochettino era at Paris Saint-Germain has reached new levels of intensity in recent weeks.
In fact, it is such an open secret that fans checking out the latest soccer betting odds have been able to wager on the identity of the new PSG manager for months. The market has been fascinating to watch as potential replacements move up the odds lists and then fade away.
It is hardly surprising that the job should see so much competition from the very best managers in Europe, given the array of talent available and the domestic dominance that PSG have been able to exert in recent years. Who wouldn’t want to manage a team that features Neymar, Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe?
Yet, the job also comes with a very specific expectation: win the Champions League. That first Champions League trophy will surely come sooner rather than later but winning any cup competition requires an element of luck. Expecting PSG to win the league is fair but expecting them to win the Champions League every year would be too much for many managers, as it has proven too much for Pochettino.
This year’s Champions League disappointment showcased a dreadful collapse against Real Madrid, losing 3-2, despite holding a 2-0 lead with 45 minutes of football in the second leg to go. Yes, sure, they have a healthy lead in Ligue 1, but they’ve also lost three of their last eight domestic games, and the Ligue 1 bar is set higher for PSG managers than at any other comparable club.
The unique pressures that come with the PSG job may still deter some managers, such as Eric ten Hag, who is widely rumored to be heading to Manchester United later this year, but there remains a strong shortlist of potential suitors for the Paris hot seat.
Given that he is without a contract after leaving Real Madrid last summer, Zinedine Zidane is an obvious candidate. The three-time Champions League winner was connected with the United position at first, but rumors claim he turned it down in favor of a club closer to home.
PSG requires gravitas, respect and experience, which the former Real Madrid manager possesses. Zidane has also demonstrated in the past that he can man manage even the toughest dressing room at the Bernabeu, where he won the Champions League three times in a row, despite not being the sharpest coach. Zidane would be a popular choice with star Kylian Mbappe, which could influence his decision to remain in Paris. However, considering his Marseille ties, will he be accepted by the fans?
Chelsea’s financial status is in flux following the controversial sale by Roman Abramovich, and Thomas Tuchel could be an option to make a surprise comeback to Paris. He finished his time with the club having secured six trophies, and a trip to the Champions League final. Although he did not win the trophy at PSG, he did so after only five months in command of the Blues a year later.
Marcelo Gallardo, the manager of River Plate, is one of the favorites to succeed Pochettino after becoming a coaching legend in Argentina following a playing career with PSG. He has yet to make an impression in a European manager’s chair, but he could be a surprise addition to the club’s shortlist.
Antonio Conte has made it clear that he is unhappy at Tottenham Hotspur, and if he isn’t confident that the club’s vision matches his, he may opt to terminate his contract at the conclusion of the season. The Italian has had a lot of success, most recently at Inter Milan, and would bring an interesting dynamic to a locker room that already has a lot of notable names.
Arteta, a former PSG player, has been progressively building an Arsenal team that has plenty of potential. By sending Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to Barcelona and freezing out Mesut Ozil and Matteo Guendouzi, he has demonstrated his ability to make tough decisions. Such mental toughness would be a big asset in Paris, although whether he would want to leave the Emirates Stadium at this point is uncertain.
A left-field suggestion, perhaps, but while Simeone has a reputation for playing the kind of football that PSG crowds are unlikely to take to, he does have one quality that PSG desperately needs. He knows how to steer a team through the latter stages of a European competition, having won the Europa League twice and reached two Champions League Finals.