After ending trophyless with Tottenham over 293 games, Mauricio Pochettino won his first trophy with his third game for PSG, thus getting the silverware monkey off his back.
Mauricio Pochettino has made quite a name for himself over the past few years as one of the finest managers in world football by the virtue of his charming demeanour, gruelling training sessions and an exciting brand of football. Despite this, the biggest criticism that people have laid on Pochettino’s door is a lack of silverware, implying that his teams don’t quite have the mental focus to cross that last hurdle. With last night’s victory, Pochettino has effectively put that discussion to bed.
Paris Saint-Germain secured their first silverware of the season by beating arch-rivals Olympique de Marseille in the 2020 Trophée des Champions – the French analogue of a Super Cup played between the winners of the domestic top tier (Ligue 1) and the main cup competition that runs parallelly with the league (Coupe de France).
Goals from Mauro Icardi (39’) and Neymar (P, 85’) ensured victory for Les Parisiens despite a late scare courtesy of Dmitri Payet (89’). The victory brings respite and some credibility to Poch’s start at PSG, who recently let go of Thomas Tuchel rather unceremoniously over Christmas.
Poch at PSG
For many reasons, PSG prove to be the ideal destination for Pochettino at this point in his career. Ever since he left Spurs, he had been heralded as a maestro destined for a top-shelf job. Manchester United, Real Madrid and Juventus were the names strongly linked with the Argentinian, but none of those options would have been as fruitful as PSG can be.
At Manchester United, there are issues so deeply rooted there is little a manager can do. While their board usually provides financial backing to a newly appointed manager in his first transfer window, the COVID pandemic indicates that that would’ve been less likely. With the club’s mediocrity and a mandate to end their trophy drought by winning any one of the competitions, all of which are played in by at least 4 teams considering themselves to be strong contenders, silverware was not exactly a guarantee, making Manchester United a rather unappealing project at this moment in time.
At Real Madrid, there were already reports of players not liking the idea of Poch’s famously tiring training drills, so if you’re unable to provide silverware-worthy credibility early in your tenure, the superstar players in the side can quickly turn the tables on you. With the club’s track record of disposing managers, Real Madrid always felt like something that would happen for Poch few years down the line, just not right now.
At Juventus, things are more complicated than they seem. With every passing year, they look more and more likely to lose their Serie A crown, with their dominance ebbing away and other big teams simultaneously stepping up. While that will inevitably happen, you do not want to be the manager when it finally does.
PSG’s nonchalant dominance over French football is not the only reason why they are ideal for Pochettino right now, although they will undoubtedly help catapult his reputation from a good manager to a trophy-winning one. More importantly, Pochettino is a former PSG captain, let alone player, harking back to the golden age of the club before the Qatari takeover that boasted the likes of Mikel Arteta, Ronaldinho and Jay Jay Okocha. His appointment is a crucial step in bringing the club closer to the PSG ultras and make the club more, well, likeable.
While the club ownership will deem a managerial tenure successful only if PSG wins the much-coveted Champions League trophy, Pochettino’s connection with the club means he will be given more time and support than his recent predecessors. The club currently lie second in the Ligue 1 table, a point behind Lyon, with a tasty knockout tie against Barcelona in the Champions League on the distant horizon, meaning the Trophée des Champions triumph comes at the perfect time for them and might just give them the kick to regain control of the season.
Mauricio Pochettino is the most exciting managerial appointment at PSG arguably since Carlo Ancelotti in 2011. While it is very early in his tenure to say how it’ll pan out (it’s ONLY been three games!), one thing is for certain – Pochettino is removing the albatross of silverware from around his neck. He now has the star-power and the financial banking to finally make his name as one of the finest managers in the world of football, and the initial sings indicate that to be very likely.