Mauricio Pochettino engineers positive PSG culture shift reminiscent of early Tottenham tenure

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Dan Kilpatrick
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<p>Mauricio Pochettino has guided PSG into the Champions League last four</p> (AFP via Getty Images)

Mauricio Pochettino has guided PSG into the Champions League last four

(AFP via Getty Images)

Paris Saint-Germain held firm against Bayern Munich to reach the Champions League semi-finals in a triumph that bore their new manager’s fingerprints.

Mauricio Pochettino has an affinity with away-goals wins in the competition, having twice benefited from the rule in unforgettable circumstances in Tottenham’s victories over Manchester City and Ajax en route to the 2019 Final.

But it was the togetherness and substance of his PSG side that was most striking on Tuesday night, as they went down 1-0 in the Parc des Princes but progressed on aggregate after their 3-2 win in Munich.

One of the first things Pochettino wanted to change at Spurs when he arrived in 2014 was the atmosphere and mentality at the club.

“Amazing training ground, amazing buildings, but there’s no warmth inside,” he told chairman Daniel Levy in one of their earliest meetings.

Instead, the Argentine found a culture of fear, not just of the Premier League’s elite, but of facing the likes of West Ham and Crystal Palace, too.

Pochettino took simple steps to change that, organising a Christmas party for players, staff and their families and making sure to celebrate birthdays as a group. The squad was encouraged to socialise together at the training ground between the manager’s gruelling double sessions and it soon became common to see players’ families around Hotspur Way.

A new mantra of the players shaking hands every morning with each other, Pochettino, his staff and Levy created an atmosphere of warmth and respect.

Pochettino quickly created a family at Spurs, a band of brothers that would go on to compete with the biggest clubs in Europe, despite a disparity in resources.

PSG have no issue with resources, but in some respects the manager and his staff faced a similar challenge when they arrived in Paris in January.

Fractured by monstrous salaries and egos, there has always been a sense that PSG as a super-club were a disparate selection of individual superstars rather than a united group.

There was also that same element of fear, albeit on a completely different scale, following so many Champions League knockout defeats and last year’s loss to Bayern in the Final.

This triumph over the holders, despite Eric Choupo-Moting’s first-half goal on Tuesday night, was a demonstration of a positive shift in culture under Pochettino.

The brilliance of Kylian Mbappe and Neymar, who twice hit the woodwork, was complemented by the industry of Idrissa Gueye and Leandro Paredes, while out-of-position Danilo Pereira was magnificent at centre-half.

PSG made huge strides last year under Thomas Tuchel, but with the added unity and belief instilled by Pochettino they look capable of finally going all the way this time.

Now, of course, there will be no families at the PSG training ground, nor handshakes over breakfast, so the manager’s unifying methods will have changed.

On the evidence of PSG’s progress, however, his results remain the same.

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