Mauricio Pochettino’s tenure as Paris Saint-Germain head coach has come to an end, mere weeks after lifting the Ligue 1 title with the club. Well, that is not official yet, but when the president of the club has spoken publicly about being in talks with his replacement, it’s not a good sign for the former Tottenham Hotspur boss
Pochettino spent two seasons with the Parisians as a player in the early 2000s, and returned as manager two decades later when he took the job in January 2021. However, the reunion hasn’t proven nearly as fruitful as first hoped.
The Argentine may have guided PSG to the 2021-22 Ligue 1 title but embarrassing early exits in the Champions League and the Coupe de France last season, coupled with a perceived lack of authority and passion for the project, have seen Poch’s tenure fizzle out in disappointing fashion — a strange thing to say after winning the league, but things are different when it comes to PSG.
The 50-year-old was the sixth head coach employed by Qatar Sports Investments (QSI) since they completed their takeover of the French club in the summer of 2011 and transformed their fortunes in a very literal sense. The club has invested an extraordinary amount of money in transfers over the past decade, peaking with the world-record €222 million signing of Neymar from Barcelona in 2017 which changed the transfer market forever.
All six coaches have managed to secure silverware of some description for PSG but the ongoing quest for continental supremacy in the Champions League will now roll over into a 12th season with a brand new boss at the helm.
Here’s a look at each manager to have played their part in QSI’s mission to transform PSG from European also-rans to a bona fide powerhouse with global reach and influence, and a ranking of how successful all six have been in doing so.
6. Antoine Kombouare (August 2009 to December 2011)
How they got the job: A former PSG player of some distinction for five years in the 1990s, Kombouare was already incumbent as manager when QSI completed their takeover in the summer of 2011, having spent the previous two seasons in charge. After beginning his managerial career with PSG’s B team, Kombouare had subsequently enjoyed a modicum of success with Strasbourg and Valenciennes (who he steered to the Ligue 2 title in 2005-06) before taking PSG from mid-table in 2009-10 (while also winning the Coupe de France) to a fourth-place finish in 2010-11.
How they did: Despite not necessarily possessing the highest profile outside of France, Kombouare was afforded the chance to begin the 2011-12 season in charge with a squad bolstered by several new arrivals including Kevin Gameiro, Jeremy Menez and Blaise Matuidi. However, it wasn’t long before things began to falter under his stewardship, exiting both the Coupe de la Ligue (to newly-promoted Dijon) and the Europa League before the halfway point of the campaign. However, his league results were good enough to pass muster and he did ensure PSG were top of Ligue 1 at the turn of the year thus earning them the unofficial title of “winter champions.”
How it ended: Alas, securing the top spot at New Year wasn’t enough to prevent Kombouare’s brief post-takeover reign from coming to an end on Dec. 29, 2011 just five months into the burgeoning PSG project, with big-name successor Carlo Ancelotti appointed the very same day. Kombouare left the club with one trophy (the 2009-10 Coupe de France) to his name having spent just 28 games as coach under QSI’s ownership, with a win percentage of 60% (W17, D5, L6) in all competitions.
5. Mauricio Pochettino (January 2021 to present)
How they got the job: Pochettino cut his teeth as a manager with Espanyol and Southampton before rising to prominence during a five-year association with Tottenham that saw the club transformed from perennial Premier League underachievers to title-chasing, Champions League finalists. He never managed to win anything at Spurs (unless you count a couple of runners-up medals), but the incredible improvements he oversaw in North London saw him become one of the most respected and in-demand managers in world football. After a rough start to the 2019-20 season, Pochettino was fired by Spurs in November with his side wallowing in 14th place. A long sabbatical period followed, during which he was linked with a succession of top jobs, only to be finally tempted back into the dugout when PSG came knocking in January 2021.
How they did: Having captained the club as a player, much was made of Pochettino’s return to Paris, though reality never quite matched the rose-tinted hype. While both the Coupe de France and the Trophee des Champions were claimed in his first half-season, as well as a run to the Champions League semifinals, PSG still suffered the disappointment of missing out on the Ligue 1 title after watching Lille squeeze them out of the reckoning by a single point. QSI then went big and added Lionel Messi to the PSG roster in the summer of 2021, but that Pochettino struggled to find a way for the seven-time Ballon d’Or to combine consistently with Neymar and Kylian Mbappe. However, that enviable front three was certainly good enough to claim a record-equalling 10th Ligue 1 title with four games to spare. Undoubtedly, the humiliating manner in which PSG were jettisoned from the Champions League was a big factor in the decision to replace Pochettino, with the French giants knocked out by Real Madrid in the round of 16 despite being 2-0 up on aggregate with 30 minutes of the second leg left to play.
How it ended: As things stand, it hasn’t officially ended quite yet, but the writing is on the wall for Pochettino as the two parties continue to negotiate a severance package. His 18-month tenure is set to come end with 84 games played, three trophies won and a respectable win percentage of 65% (W55, D15, L14).Good on paper; less so in actuality.
4. Carlo Ancelotti (January 2012 to May 2013)
How they got the job: Ancelotti was already one of the most decorated managers in European football when he was appointed as the first elite PSG coach of the QSI era for the second half of the 2011-12 season. With successful stints at Juventus and AC Milan already on his CV, the Italian had most recently been in charge at Chelsea, who he guided to a Premier League and FA Cup double in 2009-10, setting records in the process as the Blues became the first Premier League team to win the title while scoring more than 100 goals in a single season. Ancelotti struggled to match those feats in 2010-11 but still hauled Chelsea to a second-place finish, only to lose his job less than two hours after the club’s final league game of the season (a 1-0 away defeat against Everton) having failed to defend the title.
How they did: While top of the table on his arrival, PSG went on to finish as runners-up in Ligue 1 behind surprise package Montpellier during Ancelotti’s first half-season in charge while also reaching the quarterfinals of the Coupe de France under his guidance. The summer of 2012 saw PSG mount a massive transfer spree that saw big-name players such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva, Marco Verratti, Lucas Moura, Ezequiel Lavezzi and David Beckham attracted to the club. After topping the table at Christmas on goal difference, Ancelotti’s entertaining side went on to secure the club’s first Ligue 1 title in 19 years with one game left to spare as Ibrahimovic also claimed the Golden Boot by scoring 30 league goals in his first season. PSG also fared well in the Champions League, reaching the quarterfinals where Barcelona pipped them on away goals.
How it ended: Given the success and the sense that PSG were beginning to build something special under Ancelotti, the club were rocked when he requested to leave after the penultimate game of the season in order to take over at Real Madrid. Having already sealed a historic championship, PSG then signed off with a 3-1 away win over Lorient but the rift between their directors and the manager rumbled on until Ancelotti was finally allowed to walk away and assume his position as Jose Mourinho’s successor at the Bernabeu. All in all, Ancelotti was in charge for 77 games at PSG and ended with a win percentage of 64% (W49, D19, L9) and 153 goals scored.
3. Unai Emery (August 2016 to May 2018)
How they got the job: Having crashed out in the quarterfinals of the 2015-16 Champions League, PSG chose to make the competition their primary focus as a new cycle in the club’s Qatar-backed ascension began. In doing so they turned to a coach with a proven knack of going the distance in Europe in Emery, who was fresh from winning three consecutive Europa League titles with Sevilla from 2013-16. The pressure was definitely on as Emery was expected to instantly yield similar levels of success for PSG in UEFA’s top competition while also continuing the club’s formidable domestic success as a base line.
How they did: Emery won a domestic cup treble in his first season (Coupe de France, Coupe de la Ligue, Trophee des Champions) and domestic quadruple in his second by also claiming the 2017-18 Ligue 1 title. However, he fell well short of expectations in the Champions League as his first foray ended in the round of 16 with the now-infamous “Remontada“: PSG beat Barcelona 4-0 at the Parc des Princes in the first leg, only to suffer a catastrophic capitulation and lose 6-1 at Camp Nou. The following year, Emery’s PSG side once again lost in the first knockout round, this time losing 5-2 on aggregate against eventual winners Real Madrid.
How it ended: Emery may have signed off his second campaign with a Ligue 1 title victory but, with regular reports of dissent and a general air of discontent permeating the dressing room, the coach decided to walk away at the end of the season despite having a year left to run on his contract. His win percentage (76%; W87, D15, L12) was nevertheless exceptional and actually the highest across all competitions of any manager of the QSI era. With Edinson Cavani, Angel Di Maria, Neymar and Mbappe all regularly finding the net, Emery’s teams also scored an incredible 312 goals and conceded just 92 during his 114 games in charge.
2. Laurent Blanc (August 2013 to May 2016)
How they got the job: An elder statesman of French football, Blanc won 97 caps for Les Bleus and played an instrumental role in back-to-back major tournament victories at the 1998 World Cup and 2000 European Championship. He retired and moved into management in 2008, first winning the Ligue 1 title at Bordeaux and then joining the France national team, spending two years in charge before stepping down after exiting Euro 2012 in the quarterfinals to eventual champions Spain. After a year out, Blanc was appointed as the new manager of PSG in the summer of 2013 following the sudden departure of Ancelotti.
How they did: In terms of sheer silverware, Blanc is far and away the most successful PSG manager of the QSI era having amassed 11 trophies in all, including three Ligue 1 titles — perhaps helped by the fact he is the only coach to be given three full seasons in the job. He won one domestic treble (2013-14) and two domestic quadruples (2014-15, 2015-16) at PSG as the club embarked on an unparalleled period of dominance fuelled by an avalanche of goals from strike-force Ibrahimovic (121 goals under Blanc) and Cavani (81). Blanc also amassed the highest win percentage of any manager during the QSI era, with his 173 games in charge yielding an impressive ratio of 73% (W126, D31, L16).
How it ended: For all the success on the home front, PSG failed to make in-roads in the Champions League and elimination against Manchester City in the quarterfinals saw the whole 2015-16 season deemed enough of a “failure” to require a change. This saw Blanc and his entire staff leave as PSG’s owners began equipping the club to break through and stake their claim as a regular presence in the very final stages of UEFA’s elite club competition.
1. Thomas Tuchel (August 2018 to December 2020)
How they got the job: Tuchel enjoyed early success as a manager by implementing progressive methods at German clubs FC Augsburg and Mainz. He was then selected by Borussia Dortmund to replace Jurgen Klopp in the summer of 2015 on the basis that he favoured a similar high-press, high-energy approach. Overall, Tuchel struggled to build on Klopp’s legacy at Dortmund and regularly found himself at odds with certain members of the club’s hierarchy. He left under something of a cloud in May 2017 having only added the 2016-17 DFB Pokal to the club’s trophy cabinet. However his reputation as a studious tactician was what led PSG to make their move the following summer in the hope that his system would prove to be the missing ingredient in their Champions League frustrations.
How they did: While a two-time Ligue 1 champion, Tuchel won fewer trophies (6) than Emery (7) and Blanc (11) during his time at the Parc des Princes, but he took the team further in the Champions League than ever before. Indeed, it was under the German that PSG reached the final for the first time, seeing off Real Madrid and Dortmund en route to facing five-time champions Bayern Munich in the final in Lisbon — the Parisians’ first appearance in a major European final since they fell just short of retaining the old Cup Winners’ Cup in 1997. Unfortunately, Tuchel’s side were unable to go all the way and lost 1-0 on the night thanks to a decisive goal scored by Paris-born, ex-PSG youth team player Kingsley Coman. Overall, Tuchel was in charge for 127 games at PSG and left with a high 75% win rate (W95, D13, L19). Mbappe topped the scoring charts under the German with 83 goals.
How it ended: Perhaps even more galling for PSG is the fact that Tuchel returned to the Champions League final the following year and won it — though this time as manager of Chelsea. Just four months after losing out to Bayern in Portugal, the German was fired on Christmas Eve having already lost four matches in Ligue 1 that season and entering the winter break in third position. For his part, Tuchel was at the end of his tether with the way the club was run and his lack of influence when it came to transfer activity. He took over at Stamford Bridge 32 days later and then emerged victorious in the Champions League as his new side beat Premier League rivals Manchester City in the 2020-21 final.