In Laurent Blanc’s first season as head of Paris Saint-Germain, the capital city giants have lost just two league matches and made the Champions League Round of 16.
That’s fewer league losses than any European club in the five major leagues, only matched by European kings Bayern Munich, who also sit at two.
And yet, following their bitter Champions League collapse to Chelsea and their subsequent league loss to Lyon this past weekend, serious questions are being asked of Blanc.
His hire plus the addition Edinson Cavani and Yohan Cabaye were meant to take the Parisians over the hump. They are the 2011 Andy Murray of European soccer – a very good club stuck behind two or three all-time greats.
While Murray broke through with his Olympic triumph on home soil in 2012, which led to his first two major victories in the next 12 months, PSG have yet to prove they can shatter the glass confines holding them back.
Nothing has emerged to give credibility to any calls for Blanc’s head, but with the club h̶a̶v̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶w̶r̶a̶p̶p̶e̶d̶ ̶u̶p̶ on the verge of their second straight Ligue 1 title, the Coupe de la Ligue finals against Lyon becomes a massive fixture.
PSG have reached a crossroads in club growth where the league title is no longer enough; respect on the European stage is what they lust, and its own club history teaches us how small the window is for a team to break the barriers of good to great before the door shuts for some time.
They must wait yet another year for Champions League vindication, having squandered not just a 3-1 lead to Chelsea but with it their golden opportunity to show the world PSG is here to stay.
No doubt turning up the heat on Blanc’s throne is the pending Financial Fair Play decision. Of the 76 teams in question, The Guardian reports PSG have the most to worry. Their Qatari owners covered up huge losses in recent years by back-dating a sponsorship deal with Qatar Tourism Authority, and must convince UEFA the deal is of fair market value.
If they do end up in hot water, a fine, transfer embargo, or even a European ban could slam the aforementioned window shut in lightning-quick fashion, and may leave fans not only thinking what could have been in this year’s Champions League, but rueing the wasteful disposal of what could prove their last chance for many years to make a major European splash.
The club won’t blow their league table lead, but if Blanc stumbles down the stretch, especially in their cup final against OL, Le President could see himself jobless thanks to a few dire tactical blunders down the stretch, despite a season overflowing with success.
Such is the constant pressure on managers – with growing success comes growing expectations, and if a club cannot finish what it started, the blame falls with the manager.
Blanc’s firing would signal the closing of PSG’s window of opportunity, and the marking of another “golden age” in club history with an asterisk. An asterisk used to remind all that they yet again got so close, but could not make the final push.