PARIS • New Paris Saint-Germain manager Mauricio Pochettino is relishing the opportunity to take charge of a star-studded squad but has warned the club's top players that they must prove they deserve to wear the jersey of the French treble winners.
The former Tottenham boss was named head coach of PSG on Saturday, replacing Thomas Tuchel, who was sacked on Christmas Eve, reportedly for comments in an interview with German media that was viewed as critical of the Qatari owners.
This will be Pochettino's biggest job. At Espanyol, Southampton and Spurs, he was tasked to build from the ground up with emphasis on bringing young players through. But at PSG, he has a ready-made team who are gunning for the club's maiden Champions League trophy. But the 48-year-old, who has signed a deal until next June, is looking forward to the challenge of getting everyone to pull in the same direction.
"In this club, it's always been about excellence, the players have to deserve to wear the jersey," Pochettino, who played at Parc des Princes from 2001 to 2003 and also captained the side, said.
Since the 2011 takeover, PSG have been French football's dominant side but they have yet to cross that final hurdle in Europe, with the Ligue 1 side often accused of playing more like individuals than a team. Pochettino's predecessors, like Unai Emery, also had problems handling the many dressing room egos but the Argentinian is unperturbed.
"I think that it's a fantastic squad and I think that we can accomplish what this club and the players want because they are competitors and they want to lift trophies," he said.
"Our main goal is to make sure everyone is heading in the same direction. The idea is for everyone to want to win for the club more than anything else. We want to be a strong club with a strong structure.
"PSG are one of the biggest clubs in the world. So it's not only important to win but to win with style."
Pochettino yesterday took charge of his first training session ahead of his maiden game in charge, a league trip to Saint-Etienne on Wednesday when the league resumes following the winter break. With the Champions League knockout phase not until next month, his first priority would be to re-establish a commanding lead in the league.
The title race is tight this term, with PSG in third place, just a point behind leaders Lyon (36). In the past five seasons, PSG have won the championship at a canter.
Pochettino's first major test will be the Champions League last-16 tie against Barcelona next month. Only glory in Europe will do for last season's finalists, given the huge sums the Qatari owners have spent to become football's second billion-dollar team.
However, Pochettino, who led Spurs to the Champions League final in 2019, is expected to augment the side. There are rumours suggesting Crystal Palace's Wilfried Zaha and Spurs duo Dele Alli and Hugo Lloris are transfer targets this month, while Barcelona skipper Lionel Messi will be top of the list should he leave on a free transfer at the end of the season.
In the longer term, Pochettino also has to convince Neymar and Kylian Mbappe their future lies in Paris - their current deals end next year so the club may be forced to sell the star pair in the summer to avoid losing them for nothing if they snub new offers.