Pochettino named PSG coach, vows to win with style

Mauricio Pochettino was officially named the new coach of French champions Paris Saint-Germain on Saturday (Jan 2) following the sacking of Thomas Tuchel and immediately vowed “to win with style”.

PSG announced on their website that former Tottenham manager Pochettino had signed a contract until June 30, 2022 with an option for an additional year.

“PSG are one of the biggest clubs in the world,” the 48-year-old told the club’s TV channel. “So it’s not only important to win but to win with style.”

He also added: “Discipline is important, respect, friendship between the players but also all the staff.”

The Argentinian was the only name in the frame to take over at the club after PSG abruptly ended Tuchel’s involvement on Dec 24, reportedly for comments viewed as critical of the Qatari owners.

“This club has always held a special place in my heart. I have wonderful memories, especially of the unique atmosphere of the Parc des Princes,” Pochettino, who played for the club from 2001 to 2003, said earlier in a PSG statement.

“I return to the club today with a lot of ambition and humility, and am eager to work with some of the world’s most talented players."

Adding he would do his utmost “to give our team the combative and attacking playing identity that Parisian fans have always loved”, Pochettino's priority will be to sate the Qatari-backed club’s hunger for Champions League glory.

Tuchel, who oversaw the club’s first ever Champions League final appearance last season, guided Neymar and company into the knock-out stages this season before being axed.

Pochettino’s first major test will be the Champions League last-16 away leg at Barcelona next month.

He will take charge of his first match on Thursday morning (Jan 7, Singapore time) at Saint-Etienne as Ligue 1 resumes after the winter break with PSG one point off the leaders in third.

Earned plaudits

Then, on Feb 16, he will be plotting the downfall of his compatriot Lionel Messi’s Barcelona at the Nou Camp, with the return leg on March 6.

Like Tuchel, Pochettino was sacked after leading Spurs to their first ever appearance in a Champions League final, against Liverpool in 2019.

Although he has yet to win any silverware, the former PSG defender’s managerial stock is high.

Pochettino made Tottenham a consistent Champions League qualifier in four years at the English Premier League club before his departure in 2019.

He arrives in the French capital after being linked with a number of high-profile clubs, including Manchester United, Real Madrid and Barca.

He is due to meet up with the world’s most expensive player Neymar, France’s World Cup-winning forward Kylian Mbappe and their teammates at PSG’s first post-Christmas training session on Sunday.

His first coaching position was at struggling Espanyol, where in 2009 his first match in charge was against Barcelona.

He earned plaudits for saving the Spanish outfit, where he played under fellow Argentinian Marcelo Bielsa in 1998, from relegation.

The son of a farmer from Murphy, in the north of Argentina, Pochettino will have under his wing several compatriots such as Mauro Icardi, Angel di Maria and Leandro Paredes.

He will be keen to take advantage of the transfer window to bring in new faces, with French newspaper Le Parisien identifying his former Spurs charge, Inter Milan’s attacking midfielder Christian Eriksen, as one target.

Dele Alli, who has fallen out of favour under Jose Mourinho at Tottenham, is another.

Looking further ahead, given their Argentinian ties, Pochettino may be the catalyst for six-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi to consider PSG as potential new employers when he is free to leave Barcelona at the end of the season. – AFP