Exclusive: PSG ready to axe Unai Emery as coach before the January transfer window opens

Unai Emery is heading for a PSG exit before the January transfer window opens.
Unai Emery is heading for a PSG exit before the January transfer window opens.

Paris Saint-Germain are considering dismissing Unai Emery as coach ahead of the January transfer window. The contingency plan, devised by sporting director Antero Henrique, has been developed amidst increasing tension between Emery and the Qatar-owned club’s superstellar squad.

Emery’s position has been under threat since PSG handed over a 4-0 first-leg advantage at Barcelona in last season’s Champions League before losing the French title to AS Monaco. While a shortage of desirable replacements last summer helped the Spanish coach survive into a second season, the club’s scepticism over his abilities coupled with the global record arrival of Neymar have undermined Emery’s dressing room authority.

Antero has been preparing the ground to replace Emery at the end of the current campaign, making it clear to Jose Mourinho and his Manchester United assistant Rui Faria that they are wanted in Paris should they decide to leave Old Trafford. PSG’s sporting director has known both for years, working alongside them as they guided Porto to back-to-back Portuguese titles, the UEFA Cup and a Champions League between 2002 and 2004.

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While other options are under consideration, and representatives of disgruntled Chelsea manager Antonio Conte have communicated the Italian’s interest in the position, PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi’s clear preference is to try and convince Mourinho that the French club would provide a more supportive working environment than United. PSG have made three prior offers of employment to Mourinho, with the two parties coming close to agreeing terms in 2016.

According to a club source, Antero’s concerns over Emery have now reached a level where he is working on a second plan involving a mid-season change of coach. If, as is expected, the long-term appointment of an individual of Mourinho’s calibre proves impossible during the campaign he is ready to recommend replacing Emery with a coach on a half-season contract with a view to reassessing managerial strategy next year.

Emery’s stewardship of the team has been blighted by on- and off-field tension between Neymar and leading goalscorer Edinson Cavani. The Brazil international – Antero’s greatest transfer market coup at PSG – has complained about the coach’s style of football as well as his refusal to hand him penalty-kick duties. On more than one occasion Neymar has declared himself unfit to play.

“The coach is having many problems handling the team,” said a source. “He is not getting the players’ respect.” That a divided squad are aware that Emery’s job is on the line has been of no assistance to a coach who won three consecutive Europa League titles at Sevilla before joining PSG.

Asked about his issues at PSG while on national team duty this week, Neymar said there were none before breaking down in tears beside Brazil national team coach Tite. The forward left a press conference that was broadcast nationwide in his home country before its conclusion.

Neymar was in tears during a press conference
Neymar was in tears during a press conference

“I’m really fine in Paris, I’m happy,” said Neymar. “My motivation is to be a player who gives everything on the pitch. In the end, there is one thing that bothers me a lot. I don’t have a single problem with Cavani, nor do I have a single problem with the coach, I want you to stop inventing stories that I am having problems with the coach.

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“I came to help, to contribute. I came to help my coach. It’s something that has been bothering me, I even talked about it with Tite, so I beg you to stop.

“I’m not angry, I’m not p*ssed off. I came here of my own will to say what I think. I am very realistic, I don’t like the noises and the stories. What I say will upset the people who think they know everything, but don’t know anything. Therefore it’s easier for them to hear it from my mouth. I don’t have any problems at PSG.”