Christophe Galtier, the new manager of star-studded Paris Saint-Germain, issued firm warnings on Tuesday to the players coming under his watch that nobody will enjoy special status.
“No one is above the team,” Galtier advised on his first day in charge of a club with a reputation as underachievers, at least in European competition, and a fame for frailty under high pressure.
“There can be no compromising on hard work, respect and high demands,” he added. “I know I will have the support of the board to take the necessary decisions if any player, whoever he is, is not committing to the project.”
Galtier signalled he expects changes to the make-up of a PSG squad who – despite the signings last summer of Lionel Messi, Gigio Donnarumma, Sergio Ramos and Achraf Hakimi – flopped in the Champions League, dramatically letting go a two-goal lead in the last half hour of their last-16 defeat to Real Madrid. They were also sometimes booed by home fans while on the way to clinching an eighth Ligue 1 title in the last 10 years.
Galtier’s predecessor, Mauricio Pochettino, was sacked on Monday, the club’s president, Nasser Al Khelaifi, deeming him to have fallen short of making PSG as dashing or as successful as their array of attacking talents should be.
Some senior players will be following Pochettino to the exit. “I think the squad needs reducing,” said Galtier, “and I have talked to the directors about that. You can’t have players going through a season and hardly playing. It makes them unhappy.”
Among those earmarked for departure are Mauro Icardi, the Argentinian striker, his compatriot midfielder Leandro Paredes, the German World Cup winner Julian Draxler and even Georginio Wijnaldum, who joined last summer, amid fanfare, from Liverpool.
Galtier insisted Neymar, signed for a world-record €222m in 2017, would not be on his list of unwanted stars, after reports the club were exploring a possible sale of the Brazilian.
“He’s one of the best players in the world,” said the new coach, “which manager wouldn’t want him?” But he added: “When I talk about finding the right balance, I have a clear idea what I expect from Neymar.”
More explicit praise was showered on Kylian Mbappe, whose contract at PSG was renewed in May, awarding the young striker effectively the most senior status on the payroll and in the squad.
“I know what Kylian expects of the team and we know his strong points. He’s young, talented and needs to express himself, hopefully as decisively as he did last season.” Mbappe’s 28 goals made him Ligue 1’s leading scorer in 2021-22.
Galtier, unveiled within hours of PSG confirming that Pochettino would be leaving after only 18 months in the job, acknowledged that his appointment will be met with some raised eyebrows.
His pedigree in French football is sound but, beyond his native country, limited. The club’s wishlist for Pochettino’s successor had been topped by Zinedine Zidane, the ex Ballon d’Or and former Madrid coach whose preference was to wait for an opportunity to manage the France national team.
Al Khelaifi, introducing Galtier to the media, responded indignantly to questions about Zidane. “Even with the new coach sitting here, you talk about Zidane,” said the PSG president. “We never spoke to him. The manager we wanted is here and with us now.”
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Zidane’s managerial career, spread across two spells at Madrid, includes two Liga titles and three European Cups; Galtier’s longer period as a coach boasts one Ligue 1 title, achieved while in charge of Lille, in 2020-21.
PSG make no secret of their ambition to win in Europe, and their huge spending since they came under Qatari ownership in 2011, has been targeted at bringing to the French capital a first Champions League title.
Galtier’s first and only taste of that competition was with Lille three seasons ago, when they took just one point from their group stage matches.
He was a solid professional as a player in France, and earned junior caps in a France team including Eric Cantona that won the 1988 European under-21 title.
As an aspiring coach, he spent a brief period in the UAE, as assistant to compatriot Alain Perrin at Al Ain in 2004. He then made his name at Saint-Etienne, where his first job as a manager lasted eight and half years and took in a French League Cup triumph.
Leading Lille to the title in an era of PSG dominance made the Paris club sit up and take notice, although he had mixed fortunes last season in charge of Nice, who finished fifth.
“There will be scepticism, I understand that,” said Galtier of taking a job that, in the last decade, has been held by Carlo Ancelotti, Thomas Tuchel and Unai Emery, all managers with major European trophies. “I had a difficult time in the Champions League at Lille,” Galtier acknowledged, “but I learnt from that and I will now have at my disposal world-class players.”
Galtier then made his way to his first practice session with some of those players – eager to establish that their new boss comes with a very strict set of rules.