PSG faced with dilemma as Ancelotti asks to leave for Real Madrid

Posted by Jonathan Johnson

"I came here for a project. In fact, I want to understand: Did I come here for a project or for results? That's my question." Those were words of Paris Saint-Germain coach Carlo Ancelotti on Thursday, when questioned over his future. The Italian, it would appear, got his answer to that question on Sunday and promptly requested to leave the French champions for Spanish giants Real Madrid because of it.

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According to the French branch of beIN Sport, the two-time Champions League-winning coach met with PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi and sporting director Leonardo to discuss his future, amid speculation that he had been approached to take over at Madrid in the summer. With the Paris side's first league title in 19 years secured the week before, the trio met to discuss the club's plans going forward into next season and reportedly it was a tense meeting.

"Carlo has asked to go to Madrid, but we want him to stay," confirmed Leonardo to L'Equipe shortly after the story surfaced. "No decision has been taken. We've listened to Carlo. We have to look at things a bit. The priority is for him to stay. We've never contacted other coaches."

The Brazilian's words confirmed that there has been a substantial differing of opinion between the three regarding the club's plans, and it also puts Ancelotti's desire to join Los Blancos beyond all doubt. The question for the Ligue 1 champions now, is whether to keep the well-respected coach against his will.

Ancelotti's contract renewed automatically after the title win was confirmed in Lyon a week ago, but the Italian has refused to comment on speculation regarding his future for some time prior to that. Al-Khelaifi confirmed to L'Equipe in the wake of the title win that he had rejected an official approach from the Spaniards for the former Chelsea coach's services, and now wants to keep him according to Leonardo's comments. The president, though, must be rueing his behaviour earlier in the season when he put pressure on Ancelotti in the wake of a poor run of results in November and December.

One of the stories to have emerged from that period was that the French club had struck an accord with Real's current coach Jose Mourinho to take over at the end of the season. Al-Khelaifi now looks set to pay for that flirtation, with the best man for the job intent on leaving the club and his proposed alternative having struck a similar deal with former side Chelsea, and now looking more likely to return to England.

The potential loss of Ancelotti is a massive step backward for PSG, especially with very few suitable alternatives available at present. Also, who is to say that the club's preference for results-based management over the coach's value to the entire project will not hinder them further in their search for a replacement?

Mourinho is the undoubted favourite if you are looking for a coach with an ability to succeed in the short-term. It is not difficult to imagine him welcoming the opportunity to take control of a team strong in individual talent that Ancelotti has done fantastically well to mould into something resembling a coherent unit. But with no desire to lay down long-term roots in any one place, the Portuguese would offer PSG only a temporary fix.

Arsene Wenger is almost certainly ruled out by Arsenal's Champions League qualification on the final day of the Premier League season, if he wasn't by his refusal to contemplate leaving Arsenal early weeks before that. The Frenchman is the club's preferred choice overall, partly thanks to his close ties with the management, and is the best bet in terms of a long-term solution to the position. However the PSG project, and what Ancelotti's situation has exposed about its nature, represents everything that Wenger has grown frustrated with in the modern game. It seems highly unlikely that he'd swallow his pride, despite the potential vast profit he'd make, to take the job and risk poisoning a lucrative friendship.

Of the other candidates, Roberto Mancini and Rafa Benitez are the obvious frontrunners, if the club do eventually part with Ancelotti, mainly because of their availability. Neither, though, are likely first choices given that PSG will need an impressive capture in order to win over the biggest stars in the dressing room, who would likely not accept a much-maligned coach, no matter how successful they have been. For that same reason, current Russia coach Fabio Capello would probably be ruled out.

Manuel Pellegrini is the other most obvious option, but the side from the French capital would have to blow Manchester City out of the water in order to snare him if reports that the Chilean is close to succeeding Mancini are true. Pellegrini would undoubtedly be the most sensible choice of all available tacticians; he is a canny operator, pragmatic, calm and composed in all situations, and crucially does not have an ego larger than the club. But aside from the Malaga coach, there is very little to choose from internationally, and even less to choose from domestically.

Saint-Etienne's enterprising coach Christophe Galtier, Nice's miracle worker Claude Puel, former France boss Laurent Blanc and Real Sociedad's Philippe Montanier, who is reportedly close to joining struggling Breton outfit Rennes, represent the best Gallic-flavoured options outside of Wenger. Indeed, Puel and Blanc have already won Ligue 1 before, Puel with Monaco in 2000 and Blanc with Bordeaux in 2009, but neither will be considered experienced enough for the post.

With promotion from within, à la Pep Guardiola at Barcelona, not possible given that some of the most iconic club names in legendary Portuguese striker Pauleta and now assistant coach Claude Makelele are either no longer affiliated with the club, inadequately trained or not ready for the step-up to senior management just yet, PSG's future options are decidedly risky.

That is the price that you pay, unfortunately, for not giving a highly decorated coach the respect he deserves and keeping faith in him when the going gets tough. The phrase "patience is a virtue" has rung true for a number of European sides who have stuck by their coaches in difficult circumstances this season, either avoiding relegation or qualifying for Europe.

PSG's owners got greedy wanting success immediately, making a knee-jerk reaction that they now look set to pay for. With an ambitious, not to mention costly, project two years along in its development, the capital club need to make sure that any replacement for Ancelotti, if they eventually need one, will be a long-term project manager and not just a short-term saviour that papers over the cracks that have recently started to emerge in Paris.

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