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Ligue 1 title no paradise for Paris Saint-Germain

Photo: AFP

Paris Saint-Germain had not won a domestic title in 19 years, but amid a string of embarrassing news, the new Ligue 1 champions are struggling to keep their heads high.


Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) should be celebrating after a season of bountiful victories that was topped off with the Ligue 1 championship on May 12 -- the first in 19 years. But instead, the French capital’s football club is struggling to subdue a raft of headaches, not least of all coach Carlo Ancelotti’s wish to jump ship.

“We had a meeting [with club president Nasser al Khelaifi and sporting director Leonardo] and I asked to leave the club,” Ancelotti told reporters on Sunday, evoking the possibility of coaching Real Madrid next season.

However, the club appeared reluctant to let go of Ancelotti, who has spent one and a half seasons with PSG and is supposed to complete an additional year under his contract, even if it now seemed impossible to keep him in Paris.

“I don’t think Real Madrid will risk signing a contract with Carlo,” Khelaifi warned during an interview with Qatar-owned al Jazeera television on Monday. “It they do it, we would have a legal problem on our hands.”

According to Gilles Verdez, a French sports journalist, the widely expected breakup is an embarrassing one for PSG’s Qatari owners. “Qatari’s have a very special notion of power. They are used to letting people go; people don’t leave them.”

The struggle to keep, and eventually replace Ancelotti has come just a few days after the club was forced to accept they would play without international superstar David Beckham next season.

The famed British midfielder, who signed with PSG midseason, said he was retiring at 38.

“It’s his decision and we respect it,” Khelaifi told FRANCE 24 last week, adding the he had offered Beckham a new contract and told the footballer the “door remained open” to him at PSG.

Celebrations spoiled

The Paris club is dealing with more than just staffing issues at the moment. The Ligue 1 championship tuned sour less than 24 hours after they claimed it, when a victory ceremony near the iconic Eiffel Tower -- the team’s insignia -- descended into a riot.

Some people at the event violently targeted store fronts and even tourists, causing 39 injuries and hundreds of thousands of euros in property damage, and cutting the ceremony embarrassingly short.

The wealthy Qatari investors who bought up the club in May 2011 have spent millions recruiting some of the world's best players and gone to great lengths to clear up PSG’s image, keeping portions of the club’s notoriously belligerent fans in check.

Khelaifi said that those responsible for the violence were “not real fans” and in “no way related to the club.” But several of the youths caught up in clashes singled-out the Qatari takeover of their club as a reason for their anger.

Khelaifi told FRANCE 24 that the Qatari investors were as determined as ever to make PSG one of the very best clubs in Europe and, despite their struggles, the championship was like a dream come true.

"Coming here to win the Ligue 1 championship in just two years. I can tell you it was not easy," he said.

Journalist Gilles Verdez, however, said the problems PSG was now facing revealed Qatari’s general inexperience in managing a football team.

“They confused football with a simple business investment,” Verdez said. “The season brought home the trophy, but you can’t say it was an absolute success.”

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