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Mauricio Pochettino is on the brink of being sacked by Paris Saint-Germain less than 16 months after becoming manager of the new Ligue 1 champions, according to reports in France.

The former Argentina international oversaw an underwhelming Champions League campaign during a first full season when he was able to call upon a supremely talented squad, including an extraordinary forward line containing Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.

Latest reports as of Monday, June 13 indicate Pochettino’s time at PSG is up following showdown talks with club chiefs last week and he’s expected to be given the boot in the coming days with Zinedine Zidane among the frontrunners to replace him.

How has Pochettino performed in Paris? What has his relationship been like with those vaunted strikers? And who might replace the former Tottenham coach if he leaves the French giants? The Sporting News explains what we know ahead of a potentially seismic managerial change in Europe.

Which trophies has Pochettino won at PSG?

When he succeeded Thomas Tuchel as PSG manager three days into 2021, Pochettino was expected – and would have expected himself – to guide Paris to the Ligue 1 title that season, taking over a team surprisingly trailing Lille and leaders Lyon by a point at the time.

Tuchel had taken PSG to defeat in the Champions League final against Bayern Munich the previous August, as well as subsequent qualification for the round of 16 before departing shortly after a public disagreement over player recruitment with the club’s sporting director, Leonardo.

As it turned out, PSG were brushed aside by Manchester City in the Champions League semi-finals and beaten to the top-flight title by a point by a far less well-resourced Lille side.

Pochettino did win the Coupe de France and Trophee des Champions in his first campaign, as well as securing Ligue 1 glory for PSG with four games to spare this season. However, restoring Paris to the top of the table and challenging for domestic trophies was seen as a minimum requirement for Pochettino, and the style in which Paris have done it has left plenty to be desired.

How does Pochettino compare to other PSG managers?

Pochettino has a lower win percentage than the three bosses who preceded him at the Parc des Princes: Laurent Blanc, Unai Emery and Thomas Tuchel.

PSG have also conceded more goals per game than any manager since former PSG defender Antoine Kombouare under Pochettino – and their occasional defensive shakiness was arguably never more in evidence than in their disastrous Champions League exit at Real Madrid in March, when Karim Benzema scored an 18-minute second-half hat-trick to rip the tie out of the visitors’ hands.

To his credit, Pochettino did put the club closer to a coveted Champions League win than anyone in recent years except Tuchel, whose departure became retrospectively agonising when the German won the trophy with Chelsea months after leaving Paris.

Pochettino oversaw an emphatic round of 16 win over Messi’s Barcelona and an impressive away goals victory to oust then-holders Bayern in his first season in charge. However, that defeat to Madrid this season, losing 3-2 on aggregate despite Mbappe putting them 2-0 ahead in the tie with goals in both legs, looked distinctly naive and must have made many at boardroom level question how much progress was being made under the new coach.

Manager Tenure dates Win rate % Trophies per year Best European finish Goals per game Goals conceded per game
Antoine Kombouare Aug 2009 – Dec 2011 45.5 0.4 UEFA Europa League round of 16 1.53 1
Carlo Ancelotti Jan 2012 – May 2013 63.6 0.75 UEFA Champions League quarter-finals 1.99 0.83
Laurent Blanc Aug 2013 – May 2016 72.8 4 UEFA Champions League quarter-finals 2.26 0.73
Unai Emery Aug 2016 – May 2018 76.3 4 UEFA Champions League round of 16 2.74 0.81
Thomas Tuchel Aug 2018 – Dec 2020 74.8 3 UEFA Champions League final 2.66 0.81
Mauricio Pochettino Jan 2021 – present 67.1 2.3 UEFA Champions League semi-finals 2.16 0.91

Has Pochettino failed with Messi?

While no one would dispute that Messi’s arrival in August 2021 was a huge coup for PSG, it also heaped pressure on Pochettino, who immediately acknowledged that his key challenge would be turning a constellation of marquee signings into a team reflecting its expensively assembled parts.

Football, unfortunately for Paris, is played on the pitch rather than paper, relying on teamwork rather than team sheets. The history of the game is full of fables about clubs who have woefully underperformed under the weight of expectations brought about as a consequence of containing individual superstars within their ranks.

Messi is routinely accused of looking disinterested – usually after trudging forlornly off the pitch on nights such as the one Paris suffered in Madrid. The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner’s stats this season certainly back up more casual observations that one of the greatest strikers ever has struggled for his formidable top form since he started working with Pochettino.

MORE: Will Lionel Messi leave PSG this summer?

Ligue 1 is often derided as the weakest of the five major top divisions in Europe. Messi, who had scored 30 goals and provided 11 assists for one of the least functional Barcelona sides in memory in the stronger Spanish Liga last season, had been expected to have a field day in the division dismissed by some as a “farmers’ league”.

Four goals in 22 league appearances tell part of the story. The Christmas lights were up by the time Messi scored his first Ligue 1 goal on his sixth appearance in the 13th game of Paris’s league season, by which time he had already appeared to have a public flashpoint with Pochettino.

The coach offered Messi a hand that the Argentina captain did not accept as he walked off the pitch when the manager substituted him in a home game against Lyon in September, receiving what looked like a cold stare from the seemingly scorned striker on his way to the bench.

“Sometimes players like it and sometimes they don’t,” said Pochettino, attempting to quash speculation that all was not well with Messi as scrutiny on their relationship immediately intensified. “I asked him how he was, he said he was OK. That was it. That was our exchange.”

As every perceived hint of unrest became online trending fodder, Messi did look more like his usual ingenious self in the Champions League, scoring a stunning long-range winner against Manchester City at the Parc des Princes – his first goal for his new team, and one spectacular enough to make onlookers believe that it would surely be the start of a decisive return to form.

MORE: Lionel Messi schedule 2022: When and how to watch PSG and Argentina matches

Two goals apiece against Leipzig and Club Brugge followed, but those group stage wins were where Messi’s resurgence in Europe ended. Defeat at the Bernabeu, where he had tormented Madrid at times on his way to becoming Barcelona’s record scorer, ended a Champions League campaign in which he did not set up a single goal.

Pochettino has consistently insisted that he is happy with Messi’s contribution across the course of the season so far, and the Copa America winner, who will head to the Qatar 2022 World Cup in November as one of the tournament’s most feared players, has far from tanked: a typically silky set of assists against Clermont Foot was the sixth assist hat-trick of his career.

Only Ligue 1 top scorer Mbappe has more assists than Messi’s 13 in Ligue 1, and Messi’s average chances created per 90 minutes – 1.86 – is notably higher than Mbappe’s average of 1.45.

Significant questions remain around whether countryman Pochettino has brought the best from Messi on and off the pitch. In January, former PSG player Jerome Rothen accused Messi of disrespecting Pochettino when he reportedly refused to inform his boss that he had contracted Covid.

If the unconvincing draw with Lens that sealed the title does prove Pochettino’s final match in charge, the manager will have signed off by defending Messi against the jeers which rang out towards the players at the Parc des Princes before and after the 34-year-old’s astonishing opening goal.

MORE: PSG fans turn on team despite latest Ligue 1 title triumph

“It’s unbelievable,” rued a dismayed Pochettino afterwards. “These are hard things to accept. [It is] a difficult situation to imagine and which cannot be understood, in my opinion – all the more so with the greatness of Messi, what he gives and will continue to give to football.”

Any friction between Messi and Pochettino might have damaged their long-term association. Although Messi stopped short of naming the manager as a direct reason why he moved to Paris – he instead said Neymar was a reason for his switch – he did say he spoke to Pochettino “straight away” when it became clear that he would be leaving Barca.

“The coach and coaching staff had a big part in the negotiations,” he said after joining the club. “I’ve known him for a while. I spoke to him. The fact we are two Argentines helped a lot.”

How has Pochettino managed Neymar and Mbappe?

A beginner’s guide to managing the two most expensive footballers in history might have advised Pochettino to massage the egos of Neymar and Mbappe, and that is the approach the coach took soon after accepting the job.

Neymar, in particular, is the subject of stories about being difficult to manage, and Pochettino rejected that idea, speaking of the joyfulness with which the flamboyant forward plays and trains – a familiar trait of Brazilians, the boss said – and pointing to his humility.

Pochettino emphasised that Neymar was easy to work with, saying the same of Mbappe, who has had an excellent season despite Madrid’s desperation to sign him.

Eleven goals and five assists in 19 Ligue 1 appearances have hardly represented a rich return from a player as extravagantly talented as Neymar, and the 30-year-old has had occasional issues with his temperament on the pitch.

Mbappe has been Pochettino’s regular spearhead and rewarded him with 33 goals and 22 assists in 42 appearances, doing nothing to deter Madrid since their final bid of about €222 million for him was rejected at the end of the summer transfer window on August 31.

Several matches have underlined the difficulties Neymar and Mbappe have had at times under Pochettino’s management. Paris’s performances have all too often made a mockery of all the talk of the trio forming a terrifying triumvirate together and shown how the realities of management depend on the vagaries of form.

Neymar sparked rather than shone while Mbappe stole the show during the first three-quarters of that tie with Madrid, and wayward shooting from both players – Neymar’s finishing was dreadful – proved a feature of their final game before they lifted the French title.

How does Pochettino’s PSG compare to his Spurs?

Casual tactical observers had tipped the 4-3-3 formation Pochettino was known to deploy at Spurs to become a favoured tactic in his attempts to combine Messi, Mbappe and Neymar to explosive maximum effect.

Pochettino has stuck to the alternate 4-2-3-1 set-up he used in London, but has also used a 4-4-2 formation since taking over at PSG, using his full-backs for width – as he did with the likes of fleet-footed Kieran Trippier at Tottenham – and asking Mbappe and Neymar to use their blistering speed and trickery to widen the pitch.

Part of the reason why Pochettino was so sought-after and respected following his Tottenham exit in 2019 was his reputation for attractive, attacking, high-energy football, extending to hounding opponents out of possession at speed when Spurs did not have the ball.

Ball-playing defenders such as Marquinhos have taken on the roles that the likes of Jan Vertonghen had for Pochettino at Tottenham, bringing play out from the back with patient, slick passing.

Danilo, Idrissa Gueye, Leandro Paredes and others have dropped into the defensive midfield roles, providing cover and keeping play moving in the way that players such as Eric Dier did for Pochettino in his previous role.

Against more dangerous opponents, Pochettino has reverted from the out-of-possession 4-4-2 usually seen from PSG in Ligue 1 to a 4-3-3 or 4-1-4-1 formation, using a mid-block and asking his wide midfielders to be more withdrawn.

Julian Draxler, Marco Verratti and Angel di Maria act as radars for the lightning-heeled Mbappe, ready to find him with perceptive passes and allow him to break quickly – a tactic that worked for a painfully long period of their Champions League round of 16 contest.

Speaking after the first leg of the tie that might define his reign, Pochettino praised his side’s “good pressure”, adding that Madrid’s key supply lines from midfield – Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and Casemiro – had been successfully shackled, thwarting them from feeding Benzema.

The manager’s main criticism of that 1-0 win was a lack of aggression and intensity in the closing part of the game. Those words came back to haunt him, as Benzema had enough chances to sink his side in ruthless fashion during the final 30 minutes of the second leg, when PSG faded dramatically.

While he was at Tottenham, Pochettino turned unheralded youngsters into Premier League regulars and brought the best out of major stars including England captain Harry Kane. He had not worked with players as blockbuster as Messi and company, but there was little feeling that he would be daunted by the responsibility, as his long-standing links to the Manchester United hot seat – arguably the most high-pressure role in Europe – demonstrated.

The tale of Tottenham’s slow decline under Pochettino may have informed Paris’ decision if they have decided to dispense with his services less than a full season into his tenure.

Tottenham’s run to the 2019 Champions League final was the product of two sensational, dramatic ties against City and Ajax that led to Pochettino being lauded for his tactical decisions at crucial moments and man-management, but Spurs were already suffering a wretched run of away form in the Premier League.

MORE: Pochettino admits PSG are still hurting from Champions League elimination after ‘unacceptable’ Monaco loss

His players’ confidence appeared to have considerably ebbed at the start of the 2019-20 season, including a damaging 7-2 mauling at home to Bayern Munich in the Champions League and a run of one win in eight games that sealed his exit.

Spurs fans remain fond of Pochettino and have occasionally viewed his time at the club as halcyon since his departure, especially under the largely dismal direction of his shock successor, Jose Mourinho.

There is little of that residual warmth for him at PSG, whose leaders could not have ignored the disgruntlement among fans at home games, unable to forgive their Champions League failure.

Who will be the next PSG manager?

Antonio Conte publicly threatened to quit Tottenham as his frustration with their inconsistencies boiled over following their defeat to relegation candidates Burnley in February.

The Italian’s outburst shocked fans, coming little more than three months after he replaced Nuno Espirito Santo at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium following a poor start to the season.

Conte swiftly apologised and insisted that his words were the results of an immense desire to succeed rather than jump ship, but reports claiming that the former Inter Milan boss has now offered to take over at PSG will not ease supporters’ fears.

Tottenham’s hopes of Champions League qualification have been revived since Conte took over, with their performances improving despite the occasional shock defeat.

Conte could follow Pochettino’s club path, although Zinedine Zidane is the early favourite to take over – and the Champions League specialist, who won the competition in three successive seasons with Real Madrid between 2016 and 2018, would be the ideal target if PSG’s overwhelming requirement is success in Europe.

Zidane’s adviser has previously denied reports PSG have made contact with an “obscene” offer but the Frenchman remains strongly linked with a return to management.

Tuchel could also be a credible candidate if he holds no lingering tensions with PSG. Tuchel’s future at Chelsea has been muddied by recent uncertainty over the club’s ownership and the transfer limitations imposed since outgoing owner Roman Abramovich was sanctioned by the UK government over his alleged ties to Russian president Vladimir Putin.

That has now of course been resolved following the club’s sale, but Tuchel’s resources and Chelsea’s fortunes could fade if their new owners cannot provide the vast financial backing Abramovich gave the club, making a return to financially mighty PSG a potentially tempting one.

France head coach Didier Deschamps has also been named as a contender for the role. Deschamps managed Monaco to the Champions League final in 2004 and will lead his country to the third World Cup finals of his reign in Qatar, where they will be defending the title they won under the ex-midfielder in 2018.