Laurent Blanc in line to take over at PSG
Former France manager to take job after Villas-Boas and Capello rejections
Former France manager is to take over at Paris Saint-Germain. Photograph: Mal Langsdon/Reuters
Ancelotti’s arrival should, in turn, allow Madrid to sign off the striker Gonzalo Higuain’s proposed switch to Arsenal.
PSG have known for weeks about Ancelotti’s desire to join Madrid and they have been engaged in a testing process to recruit his successor, in which they have variously targeted a host of candidates, including Andre Villas-Boas of Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger.
Villas-Boas has a €11.5 million buyout clause in his White Hart Lane contract and PSG’s backer, Qatar Sports Investments, have very deep pockets. But Tottenham were relaxed that Villas-Boas would resist their overtures and he did precisely that at the beginning of the week.
He was not the first or the last high-profile manager to do so. PSG had sounded out Guus Hiddink, José Mourinho, Manuel Pellegrini and Wenger, with the latter having long been the preferred choice of Nasser al-Khelaifi, the club’s president.
Khelaifi, who is also the general manager of al-Jazeera Sport, the Qatar-owned TV station that employs Wenger as a pundit, first attempted to tempt the Frenchman to PSG in the summer of 2011. He could yet try again next summer, when Wenger’s contract at Arsenal is set to expire and Blanc’s progress at PSG stands to be reviewed. But Arsenal’s chief executive, Ivan Gazidis, intends to secure Wenger to a longer-term deal before then.
After Villas-Boas’s rejection of PSG, the club turned, with increasing desperation, to Fabio Capello the Russia manager and they thought that they had a deal for him only for it to fall through at the last moment.
Frank Rijkaard, the former Barcelona manager, made it clear that he was not interested in the vacancy before Khelaifi moved for Blanc.
Blanc (47) managed France for two years up to last summer’s European Championship, when the team made a disappointing quarter-final exit and, after a spell out of the game, he has been keen to return. He would bring his trusted assistant Jean-Louis Gasset to the Parc des Princes and link up with Claude Makelele, who was a part of Ancelotti’s coaching staff. Blanc played alongside Makelele for France.
Ancelotti will take his English assistant manager Paul Clement with him from Paris to Madrid but Makelele has signed a new contract to remain in the French capital.
Blanc’s appointment was effectively confirmed in a tweet on Friday lunchtime from beIN Sport, Khelaifi’s subscriber al-Jazeera channel in France.
“Agreement reached today with Laurent Blanc who becomes the PSG coach,” it read but, hours later, Blanc’s agent Jean-Pierre Bernes said that the agreement had not been finalised. The claim and counter-claim has been watched with particular interest at Arsenal, where a club record fee has been set aside for Higuain.
The Argentina striker has agreed personal terms in principle on a four-year contract at Arsenal and is poised to become their marquee signing of the summer.