PARIS: Paris Saint-Germain had no difficulties seeing off Angers in the opening game of the Ligue 1 weekend, but remarks by sporting director Leonardo after the 6-1 victory exposed smoldering problems within the club.
After the game on Friday night, in which Neymar, who scored twice, and Kylian Mbappe, who struck once, showed that the club’s stars can deliver, Leonardo spoke to journalists at the Parc des Princes and responded sharply to coach Thomas Tuchel’s criticism the day before of the club’s transfer activity.
Leonardo said that neither he nor the club “appreciated” Tuchel’s assertion that the PSG squad had been weakened since they reached the Champions League final in August.
“If someone is not happy, if he decides to stay, he must respect either the sports policy or the internal rules,” Leonardo said.
“You have to understand the moment we are all living through, these are very serious situations. Not understanding this situation, we didn’t like it. Now we’re going to address it internally.”
Tuchel complained on Thursday that the club had not done enough ahead of what promises to be an unusually demanding and compressed season. Leonardo responded that the problems created by the coronavirus extended beyond the playing field.
“Everybody has lost millions, it’s weird to talk about it. Nobody is buying, except in England, which is a world apart,” said Leonardo adding that the health crisis had cost PSG almost 100 million euros.
It was the first time that Leonardo has publicly criticized the coach, who he inherited when he took over in July 2019.
PSG won every domestic trophy available in France last season before losing narrowly to Bayern Munich in August’s Champions League final in Lisbon.
However, since the end of last season their captain Thiago Silva, all-time top scorer Edinson Cavani, right-back Thomas Meunier, striker Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and defensive starlet Tanguy Kouassi have left.
Apart from making Mauro Icardi’s loan move from Inter Milan into a permanent transfer, the only new arrivals are right-back Alessandro Florenzi, on loan from Roma, and third-choice goalkeeper Alexandre Letellier.
Tuchel said he wanted new signings.
“If we stay like this we can’t speak about having the same objectives,” the German said.
“Perhaps we can do it but we can’t ask for the same things from such a reduced squad when we will have to fight with teams like Manchester City, Liverpool and Atletico Madrid, who have all been very strong in the transfer market.
“In a season like this, with players who will be playing a lot for their national teams, with the coronavirus, without a pre-season, with a schedule like we have, I am worried that we will pay the price in October, November, December and January.”
Leonardo said that Tuchel had to be prepared to work with the talent he had.
“I also didn’t like him saying that this team is weak. We’re talking about a huge team,” the Brazilian said.
“It’s not a question of the transfer window, but of form. To stay at this club, you have to be happy, with the desire to suffer for the club, the spirit of sacrifice, even if you’re going through a tough moment. If you can sign players, fine. If not, we’ll keep going. That’s the spirit we’re looking for.”
“We’ll try to be creative. I don’t know how it’s going to end. A lot of things can happen, like nothing. We are living in such a difficult time. This is not the time to buy.”
The disagreement promises three tense days before the transfer window closes on Monday evening.