Pitchside Europe

Ancelotti could yet ignore Real Madrid to continue PSG project


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The last few weeks have been marred by speculation surrounding the future of the coach and by on-field disciplinary problems, but Paris Saint-Germain finally won the Ligue 1 title on Sunday and there is no doubt that they are worthy champions.

PSG today claimed they had rejected a bid by Real Madrid to hire coach Carlo Ancelotti as the Spanish champions apparently seek to try and replace the departing Jose Mourinho, but all this speculation should not be allowed to undermine what has been such a poignant season in the French capital.

Ancelotti's side had stumbled once with the finish line in sight, only managing a 1-1 draw at home against Valenciennes last weekend when nerves got the better of them. But they did finally finish the job on Sunday thanks to a deserved 1-0 win in Lyon. A Jérémy Menez goal early in the second half gave them the three points they needed to end any chance, however remote, of Marseille pipping them at the post.

Security fears meant only a tiny number of PSG fans were allowed into the Stade de Gerland, but even the many thousands who were unable to attend were delighted to see their team win the title at the home of the club that won seven consecutive championships in the last decade.

When Olympique Lyon won the last of those titles in 2008, PSG only avoided relegation on the final day of the season. Since then, the club has been utterly transformed, and now they have won the third championship in their history, their first since 1994.

There has been a lot of criticism directed PSG's way this season, and much of it has been merited. Ancelotti's team have not always played to their full potential in the league but this is still a formidable unit, based around an outstanding defence and a frightening ability to punish opponents on the counter-attack.

With two games still to play, Paris have conceded just 21 goals in Ligue 1 and have kept 23 clean sheets, a new record for the French top flight. They have scored more goals than the rest too. They are on course to beat the points tally they set last season.

The individual quality available to Ancelotti has been recognised in the list of nominations for the end-of-season awards. Three of the four names on the shortlist for Ligue 1's Player of the Year prize belong to PSG, with 27-goal Zlatan Ibrahimovic, captain Thiago Silva and midfielder Blaise Matuidi joining Saint-Etienne striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Salvatore Sirigu is likely to win the Goalkeeper of the Year prize while Marco Verratti is a contender for Young Player of the Year. Meanwhile, Ancelotti himself has been nominated for Coach of the Year.

Of course, there should not really be any competition. At €300 million (£254m) PSG have a far greater budget than anyone else in Ligue 1, and double that of Lyon, who have had the second-largest budget this season at around €145 million.

"Never has a French league title come at such a price for the owner of a club," wrote sports daily L'Equipe, remembering that Qatar Sports Investments have spent more money in the transfer market than any other European club since buying a controlling stake at the Parc des Princes in June 2011.

Lyon used to dominate, but their impotence against the sturdiness of PSG was all too evident on Sunday. When OL were chasing the game in the second half, coach Rémi Garde turned to his bench and sent on 17-year-old Anthony Martial for just his third top-team appearance before handing a debut to 18-year-old Fares Bahlouhli. Lyon simply cannot compete.

None of that will matter too much to PSG fans. Their team are the sixth different Ligue 1 champions in six seasons but PSG now seem certain to start a long era of dominance domestically. "From now on, it will be a failure for us if we don't win the title," admitted Matuidi, while Ibrahimovic declared: "The future belongs to us."

"We showed that we deserve to be champions," said Ancelotti, who follows in the footsteps of Gérard Houllier and Artur Jorge in leading PSG to the title. Meanwhile, Ibrahimovic dedicated the title win to Nick Broad, the English member of Ancelotti's backroom staff who was tragically killed in a road accident in January.

Days after Broad's death, PSG went to Bordeaux for a game that they didn't want to play. They won 1-0 to go back to the top of the table and they have been there ever since.

Now, rather than fret over Ancelotti's future at the club. It is not outlandish to suggest the former Milan coach could yet stay to build on his success at PSG, as the club's president Nasser al Khelaifi today suggested.

It is is time to celebrate their achievement, as fans gather at the Place du Trocadéro, across the Seine from the Eiffel Tower, to see their heroes raise aloft Hexagoal, the silver shield given to the champions.

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