P L ANET FOOTBALL
[ INTERVIEW ]
“It was hard to leave Italy, but the potential here is so strong” With PSG’s owners taking the transfer market by storm, new sporting director Leonardo has every right to think big. The former Milan and Inter boss shares the club’s masterplan with FFT...
How important was your history at Paris Saint-Germain in persuading you to take this job as the club’s sporting director? It’s a very strong memory for me. The 14 months I spent here as a player were really intense. It was difficult to leave Paris, and I always thought that I could come back one day. I’m really happy to be back, especially because I was chosen by people who want to do something special, who are well organised and who look to do things the best way. I’m very happy to be part of this project, which is something very positive for Paris Saint-Germain. I’m here to take responsibility, but it’s also about the personal bond I have with Paris Saint-Germain. For me, it’s on a personal basis.
Did you need a lot of convincing? It wasn’t easy for me to leave Italy. It wasn’t just about leaving a club; it was about leaving a city. I had my life in Milan. That’s why it was hard to leave. Even I didn’t expect it.
After all the hype, losing the first game at home to Lorient must have been a blow... It’s normal that a team needs a bit of time, but seeing as the team had quite good results last season, there’s nothing for me to change. I’m looking to maintain the standards of play that were set and to improve things, to look to reach the level that all European teams aspire to – playing in the Champions League.
Was that first game back at the Parc des Princes an emotional one? Fourteen years after leaving, to walk into the stadium today really makes me happy. I’m here because of the personal bond I have with PSG – otherwise, it wouldn’t have been possible to leave Inter Milan.
What’s the long-term ambition at Paris Saint-Germain? The aim is to play in the Champions League and be competitive in France and Europe. But for that, I need some time. It’s a long-term project. But the potential in this city is so strong.
Does that make it easier or harder to succeed in Paris? It’s a big club with its own tradition. The club has been around for 41 years so there’s nothing to invent. Last season was positive: the club finished fourth, got to the Coupe de France final and to the quarter-finals of the Europa League. The club has changed owners and there are still things to be done. I read a lot of things about it when I was on the outside, and now is the time to study. The owners have very, very clear ideas in their heads. And the people already inside the club are also very important to maintain what the club’s about.
There is a lot of pressure on the team now because you spent over €80m on eight new players within a month of taking over... I think people compare what happened to what was done last season. We had to act very quickly this time around, and so a lot of players arrived at the same time. It was the right time for the club, and I don’t think we did too badly given the realities of the transfer market, with respect to the needs we had. We have players of a very high standard at our disposal, who are very motivated and in tune with the project. We had planned certain things and we’ve done them – we have maybe done even more than we had planned for, because the club was crying out for this. We tried to do what we thought was necessary and despite the big shake-up we have all stayed very calm. We have to be conscious of the fact that the club has changed, but we are ambitious to do well this season. It was already good last year, and now we have the possibility to do even better this season.
The deal for Javier Pastore (left) seemed to drag on but you got him in the end. And that was followed by talk of Dimitar Berbatov and/or Ganso following him to Paris... These things take a bit of time to sort out. But it’s good: there’s a positive atmosphere in the club. If there are new elements still to join then that’s always a good thing, but you should talk about what’s been done, not what’s going to be done. The takeover was a difficult change for the team and for the coach, but they’ve all understood the situation very well and prepared in an excellent manner. That’s pleasing for us and it makes us optimistic for the league.
So does that mean the spending is over? We’ve already been active in the market, and I think this team is already prepared given the squad we have, the number of players we have and their experience. We have a team that can be competitive in all competitions.
LEONARDO BY NUMBERS
The stats that matter on the Brazilian World Cup winner
Stats provided by
61% 0-9 2.3 84.7%
Games won as manager with Milan and Inter: 37 wins, 12 draws, 12 losses
Aggregate in Milan derby as boss: P3, W0, D0, L3, goals for 0; goals against 9
Points per game in his five months at Inter, highest in Serie A side for that period
Pass completion in World Cups as a player, across 11 games in ’94 and ’98
Germany The Women’s World Cup Final in Frankfurt set a new Twitter record for most tweets per second – 7,196. The 2010 men’s final managed 2,000 per second
114 October 2011 FourFourTwo.com