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Why Unai Emery was the architect of his own Paris Saint-Germain demise

Thursday 3rd May 2018

Paris Saint-Germain left Laurent Blanc with an astringent feeling following how the club parted ways with the Frenchman in 2016. Despite shocking all odds to lead the Parisiens to three successive domestic titles, Blanc was booted out unceremoniously. As though he had been tolerated until a messiah showed up.

"I would have liked that things happened in a different manner as it was a bit brutal.” the 52-year-old lamented.

Blanc disappointed on his continental mandate. PSG’s European dreams were shattered in the quarter-finals thrice under his watch. It was unacceptable to their Qatari owners. According to President Nasser al-Khelaifi: “We did not meet our European target " hence “a new cycle". The man with Basque heritage, Unai Emery, was ready to spin. Two debates erupted. Will he terminate the Parisiens European nightmare, hence enhancing his own portfolio? Or would he be consumed by the same monster as Blanc; thereby stunting his growth.

After all, successes at Sevilla was partly due to little or no pressure. In a free and familiar environment, he had nothing much to prove. There was also the Monchi factor, who had transformed Seville into a breeding ground for some of the continent’s best talents. Even without much financial power, Emery had everything to succeed.

Whereas in the City of Light, he was not more than just a mere mercenary. No one cared about pedigree or previous records. Not the fans; certainly not the board. Cracking the Champions League was all that mattered. Emery aware of the implications yet took it up anyway.

Two years on, he must be moaning over that decision. Despite tremendous investments, he was unable to better his predecessor’s achievements. In fact, he scored less, having surrendered the Ligue 1 crown to Monaco last season. Collapse to Real Madrid in Europe ultimately sealed his fate.

Emery posses exceptional virtues, though. Humble. Hardworking. Principled. He always exuded class and professionalism that put managers like Antonio Conte and Jose Mourinho to shame. However, his singular flaw hurt him. All tragic figures have one, some would call it an Achilles heel.

The issue resides deep in his character. It is embedded in most of us, and we rarely fully conceptualise. It’s that a truly good man cannot play God. The coach must decide who metaphorically lives or dies, not based on what makes the most people happy, but what is best for the collective. Emery knew what to do, but in the face of resistance, opted for comfort and acceptance. It’s probably true that everyone on that PSG squad not named Hatem Ben Arfa liked Emery as a man, and have deep respect for him, However, it is also probably true that none of them would run through the proverbial wall for him. To paraphrase the famous Nickelodeon philosopher Arnold, “They like him, but they don’t ‘like’ like him.”

All of that is acceptable. It doesn’t make Emery any less manly. But it does make him a horrible choice to contain a locker room filled with world-class personalities. Emery ceased to function as a trainer and became a caretaker, a chaperone who rolled the ball out and hoped his team would respond to his meek commands. The man became fully overwhelmed by the enormity of the oil tanker that he could no longer control. 

Emery engineered his own downfall. Taking the job at first was a huge blunder. Losing the locker room was his worst mistake.  

Toby Prince

If the sport has 11-men on each side, a ball and lasts for 90 minutes then I'll write about it. Simply put, I'm an unrepentant soccer freak that other freaks will, however, call a geek. I do find time for music when not watching the beautiful game, though and have been known to produce the odd track. 


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