Eleven years after its passage under the Qatari flag, Paris Saint-Germain no longer wishes to dream, it wants to act. After the “end of glitter” and “bling bling” announced in June by its president Nasser Al Khelaïfi – in a speech, admittedly, already served in the past – or that of the tracks leading to Zinedine Zidane as coach, the club is beginning a realistic turn which will for the first time be passed to the European revealer, Tuesday, September 6, against Juventus Turin.
Like every season spent waiting for a first continental title, it is in the Champions League that the effects of this change will be the most scrutinized. To stop the cycle of early eliminations in recent seasons, the leaders have bet with Christophe Galtier on a coach whose history in the Champions League is limited to six games, including five losses, three years ago. But whose reputation, in France, is well established.
In just over ten years of practice, his prolonged experience at Saint-Étienne, punctuated by a Coupe de la Ligue in 2013, then the club’s first title in thirty-two years, and his visits to Lille (successful) and in Nice (more contrasted) have made the native Marseillais a seasoned technician. Rarely flamboyant in the way his teams play, like his first life as a fierce defender of the French championship, the fifty-year-old has become one of the familiar faces of the French pragmatic school, embodied at the highest level by Didier Deschamps, sa ” reference “. A solidity which will ensure him to be elected best coach of the elite three times by his peers (2013, 2019, 2021) and will lead him to the title in Ligue 1 with Lille, two seasons ago.
The collective before the egos
By taking the reins of a team whose “membership and reputation” require him to adopt a more ambitious style, he himself admitted, the Frenchman began to respond on the ground to the first of the uncertainties surrounding his arrival. Entirely focused on their attacking trio Kylian Mbappé-Lionel Messi-Neymar, authors of 20 of the club’s 28 goals in seven games, PSG have been reciting their football since the start of the season, distributing the slaps to Clermont (5-0), Montpellier ( 5-2) and Lille (7-1). As for the second question mark, his ability to manage the egos of the capital club, Galtier said to himself “able to take this pressure”in an interview at The Team mid-July.
So far, it has always been right about its predecessors. Thus the German Thomas Tuchel, the penultimate to date, who confided that he no longer knew where to turn between the posture of” coach “ and the one at “politician”a few days before taking the door in 2020. With the exception of the remarkable passage of Laurent Blanc, the second French coach only in the Qatari era, six years ago, many had to give up putting their paw on for lack of weight when building the workforce.
To weigh against the stars, Christophe Galtier can count on the Portuguese Luis Campos, sports director renowned for his lynx eyes when approaching the transfer window, which he considers to be “a determining factor”. The two men take over the winning duo they had formed in Lille, between 2017 and 2020. If the club had a hard time getting rid of a few undesirables this summer (Draxler, Wijnaldum, Rafinha, Kehrer, Kurzawa or Herrera), new recruits less gleaming than usual have come to make up for the shortcomings observed in the midfield (Fabian Ruiz, Vitinha, Renato Sanches or Carlos Soler), more than to resonate internationally.
And to the last ones who would be tempted to pull the cover to them, the coach warned from his presentation to the press that“no player will be above the group. The “penalty gate” against Montpellier? “An epiphenomenon” without consequence for Mbappé and Neymar, he extinguished the day after the spat between the two players to strike the second penalty of the match. An alternation, like last season, as goalkeepers so as not to offend anyone? The technician has decided: there will be a holder, Donnarumma, and his luxury substitute, Keylor Navas.
In “good communicator” believe two of his former clubs, Galtier has since applied himself not to prolong the speech of his president, no longer presenting Kylian Mbappé as ” the best “ but “one of the best players in the world”. A way of remembering – or of convincing oneself – that “remain a team player” despite the supposed takeover of his striker this summer, he who decided to stay at the club by once again resisting the sirens of Real Madrid.
A tight European schedule
Due to the move to the fall of the World Cup, the 2022-2023 edition of the Champions League will experience a tight first part of the season.
In Group H, Paris Saint-Germain will face the Italians of Juventus Turin (September 6 in Paris, return match on November 2), the Israelis of Maccabi Haifa (September 14, return match in Paris on October 25) and the Portuguese from Benfica Lisbon (October 5, return match in Paris on October 11). Marseille, the second French club, will try to find a place between Tottenham, Sporting Lisbon and Frankfurt to reach the round of 16. The final will be played on June 10, 2023 in Istanbul (Turkey).