Is Laurent Blanc the right choice for Paris Saint-Germain?

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Laurent Blanc is a highly respected figure around French football, an accomplished World Cup winner who did things the right way. Later, he was nothing short of sensational in his first managerial appointment at Bordeaux in France’s Ligue 1.

Upon his appointment to the national team post, there was big hope that Blanc could corral the raging egos inside the talented French team – one that had so thoroughly embarrassed itself with sorry infighting and even a one-day player strike in South Africa in 2010.

Blanc did make quite a first impression, putting his foot on the situation by initially suspending all 23 players who appeared on the French roster in 2010. The bold call paid off as results began turning, seeing the team safely into the 2012 European Championship.

But some of the old demons resurfaced last summer during the tournament, suggesting that Blanc had not totally tamed the French proclivity of late for selfish action, an apparent inability to handle pressure and locker room discord.

And that brings us to PSG, the current French Ligue 1 champions, where Blanc will apparently soon take over.

Blanc certainly knows Ligue 1. Clearly, he knows what it takes to win, having so expertly guided Bordeaux. But the ambition and expectation at Bordeaux is night-and-day compared to PSG, where the team’s fabulously rich Qatari ownership will expect titles, plural. A Ligue 1 crown will be mere “starting point” in terms of expectation; how far the team advances in Champions League will define Blanc’s success around Parc des Prince.

And how PSG does in Champions League will revolve around the Blanc’s ability to manage the locker room, to keep all the fabulous pieces spinning in the same direction the way Jose Mourinho generally did at Real Madrid, the way Sir Alex Ferguson always did at Manchester United, the way Jupp Heynckes did en route to Bayern’s recent Champions League crown.

Former French international Christophe Dugarry says Blanc is the right man for the job, but the 1998 World Cup winner also admits that he’s friends with “Lolo,” so his opinion is clearly going to be affected.

PSG certainly does not have the pedigree of its current European contemporaries, but it does have the payroll. That apparently bottomless transfer budget – last year’s jaw-dropping shopping spree saw Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Lucas Moura, Marco Verratti and Gregory van der Weil imported – certainly comes with its own prickly set of personnel management hassles.

And think about this: As the parade of established managers apparently rejected PSG’s advances – reports had linked Andre Villas-Boas, Fabio Capello, Guus Hiddink, Michael Laudrup and Frank Rijkaard to the position – was the potential for disharmony in the player ranks a factor for some of these respected figures?

Rapids hire Patel as director; Highest ranking female exec in MLS

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The Colorado Rapids have hired Ena Patel as their new director of player personnel. She becomes Major League Soccer highest ranking female executive, according to the Denver Post.

[ FOLLOW: PST’s MLS coverage ]

According to the Rapids, she’ll report to club GM Padraig Smith and “oversee player contracts, salary budget, regulatory compliance, and soccer operations protocols.”

The move comes about a month-and-a-half after Sporting KC hired Megan Cameron as an assistant director of player personnel, the first woman hired to an MLS team’s technical staff.

Patel’s resume is outlandishly strong, though this is her first foray into the sports world. Here are some words from Smith, from ColoradoRapids.com:

“Ena’s hiring is the final piece of the puzzle for us on the front office side,” Smith, the Rapids executive vice president and general manager, said in a statement released by the club. “Bringing in a sharp, legal mind who can oversee our contractual processes and complex league mechanisms is a really important part of ensuring that we’re fielding the best possible team. We can’t wait for her to get started.”

Guardiola happy to reach final, knows Man City to be judged by hardware

Nick Potts/PA via AP
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Bristol City made its interesting late with a pair of goals, but Manchester City’s League Cup destiny was never in jeopardy in a 3-2 second leg win at Ashton Gate Stadium on Tuesday.

[ RECAP: Bristol City 2-3 (3-5 agg.) Man City ]

That sent the club into the Feb. 25 final with a 5-3 aggregate win, and it’s very difficult not to leap to the story line that is Pep Guardiola‘s chance at a first significant title in his reign at Man City.

The closest City came to hardware last season was being bounced by Arsenal in the FA Cup semifinal. This time, City is the favorite to win at least three of its four entered competitions: the Premier League, the League Cup, and the FA Cup.

But to hear Pep say it, for now the club is just happy to have earned one final berth. From the BBC:

“We are so happy to be there, to reach this final. We played an amazing game until 2-0 and then we lost control, these type of games never end until the end. This is a lesson for next weekend in Cardiff in the FA Cup and especially for the Champions League.

“It’s not for me, it’s for Manchester City, a club who are trying to reach another level. … I know that we will be judged by trophies we win but we are so happy. Nobody can take away what we have done, but Chelsea or Arsenal are strong teams.”

Guardiola was serious about not overlooking the Robins, as he rolled out a very similar lineup to the full-strength bunch that beat Newcastle United 3-1 at the weekend. That may have cost City late, but it had already built a 4-1 aggregate lead with two superior away goals.

Yes, Guardiola is a man who measures himself by the way his club plays but also by winning in that attractive fashion. Expect a determined club to stride into Wembley late next month.

Chelsea and Arsenal square off Wednesday at the Emirates Stadium for the right to match up with Man City, who won the tournament in 2014 and 2016. Even year dominance?

Man City into League Cup final (video)

Nick Potts/PA via AP
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  • City outshoots Bristol 28-5
  • Sane, Aguero put MCFC up 2-0
  • Pack, Kent pulls two back for Bristol
  • De Bruyne answers in stoppage
  • City wins 5-3 on aggregate

A pair of late goals put a scare into Man City, but the Premier League leaders scored just before and right after halftime to insure its first leg lead en route to a 3-2 win over Bristol City at Ashton Gate Stadium on Tuesday.

City wins 5-3 on aggregate in the League Cup semifinal, with Sergio Aguero, Leroy Sane, and Kevin De Bruyne scoring in the second leg.

Pep Guardiola moves to within 90 minutes of his first significant title as Man City boss, and will face either Chelsea or Arsenal on Feb. 25 at Wembley Stadium.

Marlon Pack and Aden Flint scored for Bristol City.

[ MORE: Full stats, box score ]

Sane scored in the 43rd minute and Sergio Aguero struck less than four minutes after the teams returned from the halftime break.

An errant John Stones clearance helped Bristol to the scoreboard in the 64th minute, with Pack scoring the goal.

Flint then nodded home in stoppage time to give the Robins hope for a miracle win, but new contract hero De Bruyne scored within a minute to burn those hopes to the ground.

Bristol would be in the Football League Championship playoffs if the season ended now, sitting in fifth place.

Midfielder Lassana Diarra joins PSG on short-term deal

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PARIS (AP) Paris Saint-Germain has made its first signing of the winter transfer window by hiring midfielder Lassana Diarra on a short-term deal until June 2019.

The 32-year-old holding midfielder will once again try to revive his career in the French league after a successful stint at PSG’s bitter rival, Marseille, that ended last year.

The much-traveled Diarra, who was born in Paris, then played for a few months with United Arab Emirates club Al Jazira.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Diarra, a former Chelsea, Arsenal and Real Madrid player, won English and Spanish league titles in 2006 and 2012. He has 34 caps for France and featured at the European Championship in 2008.

His strong performances with Marseille earned him a recall from France, but he eventually pulled out of Didier Deschamps’ squad for Euro 2016 because of a left knee injury.

“I am very happy to have signed for my hometown club,” Diarra said. “Paris Saint-Germain represents a lot to me and, with the international dimension the club has taken in recent seasons, it is every player’s dream to play here. I am lucky enough to make this dream come true.”

Diarra joined on a free transfer and his signing won’t affect PSG’s bank accounts, which are under UEFA’s scrutiny.

PSG is under pressure to sell players to balance the books after splashing out 402 million euros ($473 million) on forwards Neymar and Kylian Mbappe last year. That led to Qatari-owned PSG being placed under investigation by UEFA for potential breaches of Financial Fair Play rules.