Tuchel or not Tuchel? That is no longer the question at PSG

·3-min read

With his billion euro side trailing 1-0 and the Champions League quarter-final against Atalanta just about to enter second-half stoppage time, Thomas Tuchel was well aware the impending final whistle would not only end Paris Saint-Germain’s 2020 Champions League adventure but most likely his own in the French capital.

But then came the five-minute Wonder of Lisbon. First Marquinhos levelled and before Gian Piero Gasperini’s tiring team could regather its composure, Eric Choupo-Moting nudged home PSG’s winner.

A side renowned for meltdowns and manufacturing defeats on the verge of victory had spectacularly reversed the trend. Talk about luck.

An Angel Di Maria inspired PSG swept past RB Leipzig 3-0 in the semis but lost 1-0 in the final to a rampantly self-assured Bayern Munich.

Tuchel, who was brought in by PSG’s Qatari purse-holders in May 2018 to better the Champions League performances of predecessors Laurent Blanc and Unai Emery, had, in falling short, succeeded.

Four months on from the lost final in Lisbon, Tuchel is a memory.

But this time the PSG hierarchy cannot claim insubstantial results in the Champions League.

Farewell

Tuchel, formerly of the Bundesliga parishes of Mainz and Borussia Dortmund, has been the best of their bunch.

And he leaves with his former PSG charges in the last 16 of the 2020/21 tournament where they will take on Barcelona in February.

The one-time PSG defender Mauricio Pochettino is understood to be the favourite to replace Tuchel.

The 48-year-old Argentinue comes with a big reputation after five years at Tottenham Hotspur where he led Spurs to a League Cup final in 2015 and the 2019 Champions League final.

Those showdowns were lost to Chelsea and Liverpool respectively.

Pochettino also boasted a succession of top four finishes in the English Premier League which allowed him to test his tactical guile against Europe’s leading coaches in the Champions League.

And it will be that arena that will define him.

Champions League obsession

At Spurs, absolutely any trophy would have been saluted and gleefully greeted. In Paris? The domestic crowns are mere bagatelles in the shadow of an obsession: the overthrow of European aristocrats like Real Madrid and Bayern Munich to hoist a very particular prize.

Tuchel won it all in France from the Trophée des Champions during the coronavirus free summer of 2019 to the Ligue 1 crown, the Coupe de France and the Coupe de la Ligue during a pandemic scarred spring and summer of 2020.

That the 47-year-old German appears to have annoyed his PSG supremos by highlighting the difficulties of coaching at a club where internal skulduggery is rampant, underscores the nervousness at the core of the PSG project.

Pochettino, who lasted five years under Daniel Levy in north London, possesses the prickles and the pique to wade through such a swamp of egos and monied muscle-men.

He will have the players too. Neymar should be back from injury during January along with half a dozen other internationals on the sick list who have been unavailable for Tuchel.

Wohin - where next?

Wohin for the talented German? Cushioned by a chunky seven figure pay-off, he will be on the radar of many a top club. It is unlikely to take him four years, like Laurent Blanc, to rustle up another job.

"Sometimes it's very easy,” Tuchel told the German TV station Sport1 just before his dismissal. “Sometimes it's a big challenge because a club like PSG has many influences that go far beyond the team's interests. I love football and in a club like this, it’s not always just football.”

Like those five minutes in Lisbon, a lot of it is luck.