With Mauricio Pochettino leaving Paris Saint-Germain over the summer, and with star asset Kylian Mbappé signing a new deal with the club, it feels as though there is an opportunity for a fresh start at the Parc des Princes. Former Nice coach Christophe Galtier has come in to take the reins at the Parisian outfit, in a change of pace from the usual high-profile managers brought into the club, and it feels as though PSG have a chance to really make strides this season, especially in Europe.
However, there’s no denying that squad harmony is an issue that has plagued Galtier’s predecessors, and given the nature of Mbappé’s new contract signed during the summer, there is a risk that the young Frenchman could end up wielding too much power at the club.
An immediate issue cropped up in PSG’s first match of the season against Montpellier, where Mbappé stepped up to take a penalty instead of the team’s usual taker Neymar. The Frenchman duly saw his spot-kick saved, before Neymar took the responsibility in the second half when another penalty came the team’s way. It’s clear that Mbappé has demanded to be the first-choice penalty taker despite Neymar’s exceptional record, and that is likely to rankle with his teammates.
As head coach, it’s Galtier’s job to foster a mentality where every player is pulling towards the same target of collective success. Too often over the last 10 years, PSG have felt like a collection of individuals rather than a team with clear direction and planning. This is most evident in the Champions League, where frequent early exits have defined the club’s attempts to establish themselves on the European stage despite their status as favourites in the football betting odds.
PSG’s slapdash approach to sporting strategy may be enough to secure consistent success in Ligue 1, but against the top dogs of European football, they will always be found out unless they can build a project that has clear values and targets. Galtier will have his work cut out to instil this kind of message among a group of highly-paid players who are used to flying their own flag.
If there is one positive at the club at the moment, it’s that Lionel Messi seems to be rediscovering some of his best form. The Argentine legend seemed a ghost of his usual self last season, as he struggled to adapt to his new surroundings following his shock departure from Barcelona.
If Messi can find top form, he has the power to galvanise the rest of the team and get them all pulling in the same direction.
Domestic success is a basic requirement for any PSG manager, and Galtier’s success or failure in the role will be defined by the team’s performances in the Champions League. Given their financial might, it’s astonishing that PSG haven’t won the competition in the last decade or so, with a defeat in the 2020 final to Bayern Munich the closest they have come to getting their hands on the famous old trophy.
To give the French side a better chance in Europe, Galtier needs to get his players singing from the same hymn sheet, and breed a sense of togetherness among the players. You only need to look at recent winners of the Champions League to know that team spirit and a collective winning mentality are the cornerstones of success.