Ancelotti and PSG in tough spot after Leonardo’s suspension

Posted by Jonathan Johnson

Following the French Football League's (LFP) disciplinary hearing into Paris Saint-Germain sporting director Leonardo's barge into referee Alexandre Castro in May, the Brazilian was hit by a nine-month ban and PSG a suspended three-point penalty in Ligue 1 on Thursday.

The 43-year-old shoulder-charged the official after the capital club's 1-1 draw with Valenciennes earlier this month having seen captain Thiago Silva sent off for making contact with Castro to protest a decision in the first half.

Leonardo's ban, as well as the potential point penalty, now leaves PSG and Carlo Ancelotti in a difficult situation.

The Brazilian, whose position in the French capital has appeared unstable after a tumultuous end to the season, has been banned from all technical areas and official functions on match day with the punishment starting on May 8 (the day he was initially suspended). PSG immediately announced their desire to appeal the decision in "solidarity" with the sporting director and in response to an "unjustified" and "extremely harsh" punishment.

More than anything, the decision casts further doubt over the coaching position that is currently under heavy scrutiny following Ancelotti’s request to leave the club a fortnight ago.

Leonardo was the favourite to take over the post on a temporary basis for one season as PSG continue to pursue Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger who is out of contract at the end of next season. But with the Brazilian now out of the picture thanks to his suspension and another temporary option in Rafa Benitez taken by Napoli, the idea of an interim boss is now looking increasingly unlikely.

The Brazilian is also believed to be unpopular with certain players, a heated confrontation with Zlatan Ibrahimovic during PSG’s title celebrations prompted speculation regarding a rift, so perhaps the ban will save the club a potential exodus of disillusioned stars for now.

According to L’Equipe on Thursday, in the event of a lengthy ban for Leonardo, the club will look to offer Ancelotti both his current role and the Brazilian’s in a bid to increase his power at the club to convince him to stay. It had been suggested recently that one of the major obstacles in any potential stay in Paris for Ancelotti is his desire that Leonardo's role in first team affairs was limited; the suspension will now take care of this. The ban could in fact provide PSG with their best chance yet of keeping the Italian after intriguing comments made by Bayern Munich’s Anatoliy Tymoschuk.

“There is a 95-98% chance of Real Madrid appointing Jupp Heynckes as their next coach,” the outgoing Ukrainian international midfielder told Russian television recently.

If true and Real Madrid are close to naming Heynckes as Jose Morinho’s successor and not Ancelotti, that puts the Italian in a difficult position in light of the fall-out from Leonardo’s meeting with the Disciplinary Committee.

Tymoschuk’s comments also add gravity to the statement made by Real supremo Florentino Perez regarding the search for a new coach on Wednesday.

"Ancelotti cannot say he has an offer from Madrid because he does not have one," Perez told radio station COPE. "I wanted to bring Carlo here in 2005 and again in 2009. Someone told us that his contract was ending this year, and that is not the truth. There are more coaches than him. First the elections and from Tuesday we will see."

So PSG find themselves in with their best chance yet of persuading Ancelotti to stay, assuming that the Italian’s reasons for asking to leave which remain secret are not deeply personal.

Given that few are expecting Leonardo to remain at the club past the end of next season anyway, now might be a better time for the two to part ways to enable PSG to concentrate on the future regardless of Ancelotti’s future. Losing one of the pair now seems inevitable, but with the two-time Champions League winner best man for the job by a long way and seemingly the key to the futures of a number of the club’s star names, it makes more sense to prioritise Ancelotti.

The capital side’s leadership going into next season is of major importance, particularly now with Monaco breathing down their necks by buying up the majority of Europe’s most coveted stars. Leonardo is something of a loose cannon and any further antics would be an unwelcome distraction in a season where focus and motivation will now need to be at an all-time high. President Nasser Al-Khelaifi and Ancelotti are due to meet later this week to discuss the current situation further.

With all eyes on Ligue 1 next season because of the presence of both PSG and Monaco in what looks like being one of Europe’s most anticipate rivalries, already being coined the ‘Cashico,’ further transgressions from Leonardo could damage the reputation of the club, if it has not already been tainted somewhat by this. Both the Brazilian and Ancelotti have been instrumental to the club’s massive rise in the past two years, but to not use Leonardo’s fate to try to secure King Carlo’s future could be a costly mistake.

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