With no indication Jose Mourinho has agreed a deal to take over at another European club for next season yet, the moment has arrived for Paris Saint-Germain to take stock of their current position and consider a move for the Portuguese tactician.
Although the former Chelsea boss has long been linked with the Manchester United job, Louis van Gaal remains in place at Old Trafford. According to a joint effort for the Guardian by Jamie Jackson and Fabrizio Romano, the Red Devils have left Mourinho clueless as to the Dutchman’s future.
That same report said PSG have started talks with the charismatic 53-year-old but no offer has been made yet.
That information coincides with some uncharacteristic behaviour from the French champions’ current coach, Laurent Blanc, since last week’s UEFA Champions League exit at the hands of Manchester City.
Le President spent the entirety of last Saturday’s 6-0 home win over SM Caen slumped in his dugout, while the club cancelled his press conference ahead of the 1-0 win away at FC Lorient in Tuesday’s Coupe de France semi-final.
Les Parisiens are coming to the end of a cycle, with certain key players out of contract this summer and a campaign of stagnation—at best—looming after last week’s European exit, and the capital club’s ambitious Qatari owners should start, and possibly are, considering Blanc’s future.
Is the Frenchman the figure they want to lead the team as they start a new cycle, committing at least another two or three terms to backing the 50-year-old? Or do they want to take a totally new direction in their pursuit of continental glory?
Whatever Qatar Sports Investments (QSI) decide, now is the time to make their choice and to set about regenerating a star-studded—although ageing—squad at Parc des Princes.
With only Coupe de la Ligue and Coupe de France success left to play for this season, even a repeat of last campaign’s domestic clean sweep should not be enough to guarantee Blanc his job for next term.
However, a defeat at Stade de France in the Coupe de la Ligue this Saturday or to bitter rivals Olympique de Marseille next month could spell the end for the former Girondins de Bordeaux and France boss.
Losing to Les Dogues or OM would represent a significant step back from last season’s achievements and make a squad and staff overhaul a more pressing issue than it already is.
Blanc is not a poor coach, far from it. In fact, Le President’s record since taking over in Paris is impressive, and he has done much better than many expected when he was first appointed.
The Frenchman has won nine domestic trophies in almost three years as coach, giving PSG the sort of dominance within France predecessor Carlo Ancelotti was unable to provide during his time in Le Championnat.
Blanc’s silverware haul in the capital has made him the most successful tactician in the club’s history, and last term’s success also earned him his second Ligue 1 Coach of the Year award.
However, it appears the former France international is not the man to take PSG past the quarter-finals of the Champions League. There are also reasonable questions regarding his authority over the current squad, as well as his utilisation of certain talented squad members.
As good as Blanc has been domestically, he appears limited in Europe, and that—crucially—is where QSI’s main ambition lies.
His tactical decision-making in the second leg of the French giants’ 3-2 aggregate defeat to Manchester City was nothing short of shambolic and reeked of panic with a number of key players injured or suspended.
Of all the options available to Les Parisiens at present, including Manuel Pellegrini, Rudi Garcia, Jorge Sampaoli and Lucien Favre, Mourinho is the outstanding candidate if they choose to replace Blanc.
The Portuguese fits the bill perfectly in everything PSG’s leaders want in their team. The two-time Champions League winner is as much of a superstar as his players and would enable QSI to boast a star name in every position—including the technical area—at Parc des Princes.
Although unlikely to be a long-term solution, Mourinho represents a strong chance of success on European club football’s biggest stage in the two or thee seasons he would probably be in charge for.
The man from Setubal has reached the Champions League semi-finals eight times in the 13 campaigns he has coached in, and few current options come close to his record on the continent.
On top of his Champions League credentials, Mourinho is more tactically flexible than Blanc and would almost certainly continue PSG’s domestic dominance.
He would also ask for more intensity from his players, which would help to counteract the perceived negative impact Ligue 1 matches have on the team before big European encounters.
Over the years, Mourinho has also developed a knack for taking over at clubs primed for success and being the one to take them that step further. PSG would fall into that bracket having now reached the Champions League quarter-finals four times consecutively.
As a bonus, Paris has a sizeable Portuguese community, and the appointment of the country’s leading coach would be almost as big a lure for the locals as the presence of the nation's leading player: Cristiano Ronaldo. Why not try to pair the two up in Paris?
Now more than ever, the Champions League is QSI’s absolute priority, and they need to react after the manner of PSG’s latest quarter-final exit.
If the Qataris want to guarantee at least a semi-final berth in next term’s competition, then Mourinho offers a better chance of that than most.
If the Ligue 1 champions want to convince the Portuguese to take the job, they will have to move quickly. Even if they do, there is still no guarantee there will not be a more attractive offer put forward to 53-year-old from another European giant at some point in the near future.
However, this season’s setback requires action from PSG’s leaders, and whether it involves a cull of players, the removal of Blanc or both, QSI must act now. Mourinho will not be on the market for much longer.