Paris St. Germain made the shock decision to part ways with Thomas Tuchel last month.
Despite reaching the Champions League final just four months ago, the former Borussia Dortmund trainer was shown the door after tensions between him and the board reached a boiling point.
In came Mauricio Pochettino, the man who was coveted by some of Europe’s biggest clubs.
Pochettino’s task at PSG is simple – Win the UEFA Champions League. But can he succeed where Carlo Ancelotti, Laurent Blanc, Unai Emery and Thomas Tuchel couldn’t?
Dealing with the big dressing room egos
Before he can meet the lofty expectations set by the owners, Pochettino must first learn to find ways to deal with the egos of the two big superstars in the PSG dressing room.
In his previous jobs, the 48-year-old worked with players who were collectively eager to reach the next level and progress as a team.
But things work differently at PSG, where the likes of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe have more influence than any of Pochettino’s charges did during his time at Tottenham or Southampton.
Handling the egos of the two superstars certainly won’t be easy, especially with both their futures up in the air.
How Pochettino manages Neymar and Mbappe in the next few months could be decisive for their long-term futures, and also for PSG’s Champions League hopes.
If the former Argentina international can convince the star duo to stay, his chances of succeeding in Paris will certainly increase.
Finding the right balance in the PSG squad and selling the deadwood
While Neymar and Mbappe are pivotal to PSG’s hopes, a quick look through the rest of their squad shows just how unbalanced they are.
PSG just do not have the defensive acumen or the midfield quality that the likes of Bayern Munich, Manchester City and Liverpool possess.
A number of big-money signings have flopped in recent years, with the likes of Julian Draxler, Ander Herrrera, Abdou Diallo, Thilo Kehrer and Leandro Paredes all failing to make the desired impact. Shipping them won’t be easy either, with all of them sitting on big wages.
COVID-19 has meant that even the mega-rich PSG are struggling financially, and do not have the money to sign world-class players anymore.
So unless Pochettino can sell the unwanted players, he must find a way of making it work with them, at least until the end of the season.
Perhaps, he can give some of PSG’s talented youngsters a chance, which would also ensure that they stop leaving the club on free transfers.
Winning the Ligue 1 title
While this may seem like a relatively easy challenge, PSG have been far from their best in the Ligue 1 this season.
With 20 match-days played, the nine-time French champions are joint top with Olympique Lyonnais. An underwhelming return for a team that usually dominates the competition in France.
PSG have won the Ligue 1 for the last three seasons in a row, and failure to lift the L’Hexagoal this season would be a disaster.
Lyon’s narrow title hopes will be helped by the fact that they aren’t involved in European football this season, and will thus have a more relaxed fixture list compared to PSG, who will be aiming to contend on both fronts.
Striking the right cord with Leonardo
PSG sporting director Leonardo is one of the most influential figures at the club.
He is the one who makes the decisions on transfers, squad planning and other first-team matters.
Thomas Tuchel paid the price for having a frosty relationship with Leonardo. And Pochettino cannot afford to make the same mistakes, especially if he wants his transfer targets to be bought.
Luckily for Pochettino, spending five years working under Daniel Levy at Tottenham Hotspur will have certainly prepared him for the challenge.
Mauricio Pochettino certainly has his task cut out at PSG, but he will no doubt be determined to overcome all the obstacles.
He has already made a good start, having led his team to the Trophée des Champions, the first title of his managerial career.
But the trophy that truly matters to the club bosses will not be up for grabs until May.
Performances in the UEFA Champions League is the criteria Pochettino will be judged on. And if he can help them win the trophy that has eluded them for so long, Pochettino will certainly add his name to PSG folklore.
But failure to win Europe’s premier club competition, and Pochettino could find himself out of a job once again.