Winning Ligue 1 won't save Unai Emery
There was palpable tension on PSG manager Unai Emery's face at the Santiago Bernabeu last week. Ronaldo had scored Real Madrid’s third goal and Emery knew it was perhaps a lost cause for his side. Still, there may be good news for the former Valencia manager. Man of the Match Marcelo is a doubt for the return clash, while Toni Kroos is also being monitored. That may not save PSG from another hiding from their illustrious opponents. After signing Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, this was the season Les Parisiens were expected to finally challenge for the Big-Eared trophy, but it may be an exercise in futility.
The former Sevilla coach was hired to help the club challenge for the trophy they have craved since the Qatari owners bought the Parc Des Princes outfit. His record at the Ramon Sanchez Pijuan was exemplary. He won the Europa League on three consecutive occasions. With better players and a bigger budget, it was believed he would come good in the Champions League. It hasn’t happened. Nor can an impeccable record in Ligue 1 save him.
Last season, PSG defeated Barcelona 4-0 in the first leg at home, but suffered an inexplicable 6-1 reverse in Spain, losing 6-5 on aggregate. He was expected to be sacked given that they also lost the league championship to surprise package, Monaco. However, the club stood by him against better judgement. It seems the club's hierarchy passed on an opportunity.
For a club like PSG, winning Ligue 1 is no longer an achievement, just like winning the Bundesliga for Bayern Munich is taken for granted. The bigger slice is the Champions League, in which the French outfit have never been past the quarterfinals. The club have been linked to a host of top managers. Emery must be wary of his own future. He doesn’t quite have the profile, charisma, or clout to manage PSG's big egos. That is a major drawback. The club sacked former manager Laurent Blanc despite Le President sweeping the domestic competitions. He couldn't get past Barcelona or Chelsea in the Champions League.
Emery has not managed anything close to what Blanc achieved. It may be time for the Spaniard to start planning for life away from Paris. While the 3-1 loss to Real Madrid is not insurmountable, it will be difficult. They must find the swagger they had in the first leg against Barcelona last season.
It has to be added that Neymar, Mbappe, Cavani and Di Maria are far too good for Ligue 1. They are currently 11 points clear, have scored the most goals, conceded the fewest, and boast the best players. They would win the league and perhaps the other domestic competitions, but France itself is not a standard to gauge how far they have come.
Their yardstick is the Champions League. If they bow out again, Emery will be found wanting. The club will look to make up for lost time with a more proven manager.