One of the longest running transfer sagas of the summer finally ended Tuesday with the confirmation that Laurent Blanc, former Bordeaux and France coach, was appointed Paris Saint-Germain coach. PSG had been knocked back in its search to replace Real Madrid-bound Carlo Ancelotti by some of football's highest-profile coaches: Jose Mourinho, Guus Hiddink, Michael Laudrup and Fabio Capello among them. Rafa Benitez was also on the short-list, but he joined Napoli before the French champion could even make an offer.
For now, never mind the fact that all these coaches have totally different profiles and visions of how the game should be played, calling into question what philosophy PSG wants (as referred to in this piece from last year). What they do have in common is that they all gave quick a 'non, merci' after PSG made its move.
One man gave more consideration to the idea: Tottenham coach Andre Villas-Boas. His agent, Carlos Goncavles, spent two days in Paris talking over the idea with PSG sports director Leonardo. There were some compelling arguments for taking it: PSG were offering a three-year deal, with a one-year option to extend, and were prepared to make Villas-Boas one of the three highest-paid coaches in the world. PSG is in the Champions League and, given its spending power over the rest of Ligue 1 (bar Monaco), is likely to be a fixture in the knockout stages for years to come. Leonardo also promised a strong hand in recruitment, where the club is reported to have a blank check to purchase a marquee summer signing. Villas-Boas said no. Perhaps money doesn't always talk. French paper Le Parisien gave three reasons for the refusal:
1. The Shadow of Wenger. It is an open secret that PSG's main priority as future coach is Arsene Wenger. PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi also runs Al-Jazeera Sports TV, and many years ago handed Wenger a lucrative contract to work as an occasional pundit for the station. The pair get on well. Wenger's contract at Arsenal expires in 2014, and he famously says that he never breaks a contract. The longer he goes without signing a new one, the more confident PSG is that he will join next summer. However, there is a caveat: it is SI.com's understanding that there is no pre-contract agreement in place between Wenger and PSG. It's also hard to know what would make Wenger more likely to leave Arsenal: the prospect of a trophy so he can leave on a high, or another nerve-jangling race for fourth place and a 17th straight Champions League qualification.
As for whether Wenger would be prepared to change his personal philosophy and work for a team that, as he might put it, is financially doped, don't worry too much about. He would find the right argument for the moment: most likely, a promise to bring through some Parisian youngsters into the first team (it only has two homegrown players in the squad for next season at the moment); or to develop a style of attacking football 'to reflect the dynamic brand' (ugh).
2. Loyalty to Spurs. Villas-Boas is happy in London, and his first season, though the team fell short of Champions League qualification, was still a success. Spurs earned more points last season, 72, than in any other Premier League season. He helped improve Gareth Bale's game and with Hugo Lloris and Jan Vertonghen huge hits at the back, introduced a playing style that seduced not just Spurs fans but neutrals too. He gets on well with Spurs chairman Daniel Levy and owes him for his hire five months after Chelsea sacked him.
3. AVB's Image. Villas-Boas has never spent more than a year at any club. He had one season at Academica (2009-10); one at Porto (2010-2011); half of one at Chelsea (2011-2012); and one at Spurs (2012-13). He originally wanted to stay at Porto before Roman Abramovich came knocking; maybe he has learned from that but given his previous with Mourinho, who is also seen as a short-term coach (something he is trying to change in his second stint at Chelsea), Villas-Boas must realise that a fifth club in as many years tells its own story.
This is also a good time to be at Spurs: three of the four teams who finished above it have new coaches; Bale, for the moment, looks like he will stay for another season; and last week, the club hired Franco Baldini as technical director.
That was a move that overshadowed by the appointment of another director of football, Joe Kinnear, at Newcastle. Kinnear's appointment led to managing director Derek Llambias resigning and chief scout Graham Carr considering his future. It also heaps the pressure on coach Alan Pardew. Not so Baldini: Villas-Boas pushed for his appointment and, I would imagine, so did some other Premier League chairmen, who might be relieved they no longer have to negotiate with Levy.
The pair can plot a future path together, and the first stop is likely to be Brazil. Tottneham has been linked with Paulinho, Bernard and Leandro Damiao and Villas-Boas has made no secret of his love for players from the World Cup host country. "After Chelsea, I went scouting in Brazil. This is where you find pure talent, the type that I would like to help develop," he told France Football last year. He was also offered a coaching job there but turned it down.
Managers talk about continuity and stability. They moan when they lose their jobs, and complain that chairmen are too impatient and don't show enough loyalty. Sometimes, though, it works both ways. Villas-Boas deserves credit for sticking with Spurs.