PSG coach Unai Emery leaving at end of season
PARIS (AP) — Paris Saint-Germain coach Unai Emery is leaving the club at the end of the season, the latest to pay the price for failing to lead the team to the European glory its owners crave so much.
Emery joined PSG from Sevilla two years ago on a two-year contract, which will not be extended.
He addressed the players before Friday’s training, ahead of the French champions’ against Guingamp on Sunday.
“I have told the players I’m leaving,” Emery said. “I thank president Nasser Al-Khelaifi, the sporting director Antero Henrique, the supporters and all the players for these two seasons.”
Emery says the decision was taken by mutual consent after a one-hour meeting with Al-Khelaifi and Henrique.
“I’m very happy to have been given the opportunity to work here, it’s been a great experience,” Emery said. “That’s the way I want to leave, on good terms, with respect for everyone and having always been honest.”
Emery replaced Laurent Blanc, who was fired after failing to get PSG beyond the quarterfinals of the Champions League. He arrived with a strong reputation after guiding Sevilla to three straight Europa League titles, but he lost the league title last season and made unwanted history in the Champions League.
PSG became the first team in the Champions League to be eliminated from the knockout stage after winning the first match 4-0, losing 6-1 at Barcelona in the return leg of the last 16.
“It was a difficult time,” the Spanish coach said Friday at a news conference. “The first six months were difficult after the departure of (Zlatan) Ibrahimovic; for the team to adapt to me and for me to adapt to the team.”
PSG failed to reach the quarterfinals again this season, beaten home and away by Real Madrid in a 5-2 aggregate loss.
It was another disappointing moment for a club funded by cash-rich Qatari investors QSI.
Emery was given lots of money to build a team capable of winning this season’s Champions League. PSG broke the world record by signing Neymar from Barcelona for 222 million euros ($260 million) and bought Kylian Mbappe from Monaco in a deal worth $180 million ($216 million).
But while PSG wrestled the French title back from Monaco with five games to spare , and is on course for another domestic treble, the club again fell short in Europe. Like Blanc before him, the responsibility for that setback has been placed firmly on Emery’s shoulders, even though the players let him down with their performance against Madrid.
There has even been talk that Neymar could leave during the offseason, amid reported interest from Madrid. But Emery sought to assure supporters the Brazil striker will stay.
“PSG has got a solid project,” Emery said. “Neymar wants to improve and grow with the club.”
PSG has been reportedly linked with a move for Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, who is leaving the London club after almost 22 years in charge, and with former Borussia Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel.
Regarded as a brilliant tactician and owning a reputation for giving young players a chance at the top level, Tuchel has been without a club since getting fired by Borussia Dortmund last May.
Tuchel has also been linked to Arsenal.
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte, who has had a difficult season with the London club, is another possible replacement.
Emery said he would take some time with his family before deciding on his next move.
“For the two years he was in charge of our team, Unai Emery proved himself to be committed at all times,” Al-Khelaifi said. “I congratulate him for his investment in our project and I wish him, in the name of the club, lots of success in the challenges ahead.”
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Jerome Pugmire on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jeromepugmire