x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

No ifs and buts for PSG coach Carlo Ancelotti in fight for Ligue 1 glory

Leagues around the world The former Chelsea coach inherits a top team and has to ensure a legacy for the club's new Qatari owners.

Carlo Ancelotti started on a losing note in an exhibition match in Dubai where PSG lost to AC Milan on Wednesday.
Carlo Ancelotti started on a losing note in an exhibition match in Dubai where PSG lost to AC Milan on Wednesday.

Coaching a team owned by a success-hungry billionaire is no easy task.

Yes, the money may provide assistance in acquiring the kind of talent that can help stock up a dust-covered trophy cabinet, but with expensive signings comes expectant supporters and, in turn, an impatient president.

Results must correlate or the exit door looms. Jose Mourinho can attest that. Carlo Ancelotti, who was appointed manager of Paris Saint-Germain last week, will take charge of his first competitive match with the French club tomorrow against the fifth-tier side Saint-Colomban Locmine in the French Cup.

But the Italian, who is expected to be joined at PSG by Paul Clement, who left the Blackburn Rovers coaching staff yesterday, has arrived at the club in the best and worst possible circumstances.

The team he inherits sits at the summit of Ligue 1, a great starting base, but the only way is down.

On Wednesday night, after PSG lost 1-0 in an exhibition match with AC Milan in Dubai, The National asked Ancelotti if he would deem it a failure were his first season to end with the Paris club positioned anywhere other than first.

"From my experience, it is difficult to speak when you use the word 'if'," the 52 year old said.

"'If' does not exist, we have to work and to try to do our best to win the league. If we find a team better than us, they have to win. Speaking about the rest is not my business." Antoine Kombouare, the 48 year old who led PSG to the top of the league before being dismissed, was largely unknown outside of France.

Born in New Caledonia, Kombouare is a respected former player with the Parisian club, and the way he was unceremoniously exiled in favour of a more prestigious name has been met with criticism.

Ancelotti may now be the best-paid coach in French football history, but he has a tough task.

Not only must he maintain positive results and the top spot in the league, but he must win over the club's notoriously fickle fans.

Clarence Seedorf, the Milan midfielder who worked with Ancelotti for eight years at San Siro, spoke of the difficulties his old manager faces because of the "polemics" surrounding Kombouare's dismissal.

"I hope he does not suffer from that," Seedorf said.

Like Mourinho, Ancelotti also worked under Roman Abramovich at Chelsea and, like Mourinho, failure to win the Champions League was an important reason why his contract was cut short.

In his new post, Ancelotti has been told European success is not the immediate goal.

Nasser Al Khelaifi, the president of PSG, has said he does not expect to be fighting seriously for Europe's most prestigious prize until 2014, allowing his new coach time to build a squad that would leave a legacy in Paris.

Only his club's Qatari owners will know whether that timescale is likely to change next season. "The ambition is to win, to play in the Champions League next year and to become a strong team for the future," Ancelotti said of his expectations during his tenure.

With the turn of the year bringing with it the opening of the January transfer window, cash-rich PSG are being linked with players from around the globe, with Carlos Tevez, Mario Balotelli, Frank Lampard, Alexandre Pato, Kaka, David Beckham among those mentioned as possible targets.

Ancelotti refuses to be drawn on specific players, saying simply that he is looking to improve his squad, but that it requires a willingness from all parties to do a deal.

If Pato wants to leave Milan, he said, Milan need to be willing to let him leave, something that, so far at least, looks unlikely.

"The only definite thing is that Pato will remain with AC Milan until the end of the season," Massimiliano Allegri, the Milan coach, said.

Tomorrow's game will take place at the Stade du Moustoir, the home of PSG's Ligue 1 rivals Lorient, as Locmine's tiny Pigeon Blanc stadium can only accommodate 450 spectators.

"For the first time in our history that we're taking on a Ligue 1 club, we've hit the jackpot," said Didier Noblet, the Locmine coach.

"We were all dreaming about it. Now, the dream is to beat them."

 

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae

Ligue 1 table

Team P W D L GD P

PSG 19 12 4 3 14 40

Montpellier 19 11 4 4 16 37

Lille 19 9 9 1 14 36

Lyon 19 11 2 6 10 35

Rennes 19 9 5 5 6 32

Marseille 19 8 7 4 9 31

Toulouse 19 8 7 4 3 31

St Etienne 19 8 6 5 2 30

Lorient 19 6 6 7 -3 24

Bordeaux 19 5 8 6 -2 23

Evian Thonon 19 5 7 7 -2 22

Brest 19 3 12 4 0 21

Valenciennes 19 5 5 9 -3 20

Caen 19 5 5 9 -5 20

Auxerre 19 4 7 8 -4 19

Dijon 19 5 4 10 -15 19

Nice 19 4 6 9 -2 18

Nancy 19 4 6 9 -9 18

Sochaux 19 4 6 9 -13 18

AC Ajaccio 19 3 6 10 -16 15