Little has been mentioned in the way of Laurent Blanc becoming a potential candidate for the impending managerial vacancy at Paris Saint-Germain. Since Euro 2012, the Frenchman has silently slipped most European clubs’ radars and, instead, finds himself in a state of muted quiescence; a stand-still. Carlo Ancelotti has made his feelings to the Parisien board clear in harbouring a desire to leave for Real Madrid and, since refused, means he shall remain loyal to the remainder of his contract at the club. For Nasser Al-Khelaïfi and the likes, it buys time for the club to find a successor for their want-away manager in the midst of their domestic league success.
It is probably safe to assume that had Roman Abramovich restrained from dismissing his young Portuguese protégé in Andre Villas Boas, that the Tottenham Hotspur hotseat would have all but included a list of names with which Blanc would be on. Instead he took over at the north London club whilst his previous employers went on to employ two further managers and gain European honours with them respectively. By the end of next month, June, it will have been exactly a year since he left the head coach role of the France national side. Le Bleus since remain in a period of transition.
Another safe assumption is that a majority of Ligue 1 clubs would welcome Blanc’s arrival with affability. At 47 he has already added the national team to his credentials as past teams to have managed, after leading Bordeaux to an impressive league and cup double in 2009. That was then followed by a catastrophic final stretch the next season, tailing off rapidly from first and second, all the way down to, eventually, sixth. Defeat in the Coupe de la Ligue final to Marseille severed all possibilities of European football. However, as many saw, Bordeaux were in firm motion for greater success – and it was only when national duty came calling that he felt accountable in the wake of his country’s desperate calls for restructuring.
But it isn’t to say that Bordeaux fans did not enjoy every minute of the three fantastically merveilleux, marvellous, years with him in charge. His first season as no.1 – a year later he was offered the job as assistant manager to Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, to which he declined – he had a team transition from run-of-the-mill mid-table finishes for quite some time, into one with flamboyance and grandeur. They were a cunning side, capable of drawing opponents deep, and then launching a lightning counter-attack with powerful movement. Unceremonious to what their adversaries expected.
Upon lifting the Ligue 1 title for the first time in exactly a decade, the French press were joyous: “Indisputable!” claimed L’Equipe, and [2009 Bordeaux] “a vintage champion” pitched L’Express. It was a large sigh of relief when Yoan Gouffran netted the decisive goal to put le Girondins top of the league whilst Marseille torched Stade Rennais at home eventually by four goals. The sigh of relief mainly deriving from an eleven match winning streak started by Blanc’s men, beginning with victory at home to OGC Nice. The run stretched two months following an erratic start to the season that had originally seen them in sixth. By the final three games Bordeaux were top and required maintenance of their impressive winning run. Eventually it came down to a battle with ill-fated SM Caen’s Stade Michel-d’Ornano. Had Bordeaux been defeated, they would have lost the title on goal difference.
What’s even more interesting is how Marseille turned down the opportunity to appoint Blanc the season before; as did Monaco and Auxerre. Instead L’OM appointed Belgian Eric Gerets, Monaco hired Ricardo Gomes, and Auxerre remained with Jean Fernández. All three clubs undoubtedly regretted the decision, although there is a hint of lenience for their naïveté.
Almost three years on and the opportunity has arisen again: refreshed and recharged, undoubtedly the man once nicknamed ‘Larry White’ by Manchester United supporters during his time in England, can re-enter football with a clearer mindset. Paris Saint-Germain will remain coy on his situation, among other candidates, but perhaps fervently continue through pre-season and into the 2013/14 campaign. Their own playing staff has already hinted at departures – most notably Zlatan Ibrahimović – for various reasons.
It could even turn out to be an advantage in some ways that, having been appointed by the country’s national side that the former Marseille sweeper would have better insight on how to manage high-profile players in an enclosed squad. Alternative to interchanging squad personnel as France’s head coach, the variety of different nationalities indeed proposes someone with more experience (i.e. Ancelotti) but yet still someone who can preserve strong morale. That will also need to translate itself into Europe, meeting the lofty expectations held for success in the UEFA Champions League next season. Meanwhile the league is a compulsory objective.
He may well come across problem players who will either be shifted on (another Zlatan reference, although factors depend) or remain for the sake of concerning ambitions. It will eventually boil down to how carefully he crafts the bigger picture, rather than going game-by-game, and getting everyone – not just the players – to invest in the what Nasser Al-Khelaïfi has continued to claim as “the project”.
Whatever happens, Blanc cannot be overlooked again. Marseille, Monaco and Auxerre all paid the price the first time they dismissed Le Président as a competent and capable successor for achieving success, and it can only be a matter of time from now that he is either back in Ligue 1 or in charge of a club in some of Europe’s strongest top-flight divisions. During his time at Bordeaux there was even speculation as to whether or not Blanc is ‘too big’ for Ligue 1, considering the league’s smaller stature in comparison; on some levels there is fact in that speculation, although it must be reinstated that many chairmen would desire his managerial presence if possible.