Pressure rising at PSG over Ancelotti speculation
Paris Saint-Germain's quest to become one of Europe's leading clubs is not going as smoothly as results suggest, with speculation that Carlo Ancelotti is set to take over as coach proving to be unsettling.
Following a huge spending spree, PSG is three points clear at the top of the French league and all would seem to be on track under coach Antoine Kombouare.
Yet PSG has been rocked by the reports of Ancelotti's supposed imminent arrival, just as it is finding its feet after years of fan violence had crippled the club.
Ruthlessly ousting Kombouare, who is a popular figure, would not sit will with the players. But sporting director Leonardo is entrusted with increasing PSG's global appeal, which invariably means bringing in big names.
Leonardo said in a recent interview with French newspaper L'Equipe that he had spoken to Ancelotti but hadn't made an offer to the former Chelsea manager, who has previously said he would prefer to remain in England.
''Everyone's phoning Paris Saint-Germain these days. It's new and it's good for the club,'' Leonardo said.
Ancelotti, former Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez and Guus Hiddink are all high-profile figures and would undoubtedly broaden awareness of PSG abroad - making the club more attractive for ambitious players.
Hiddink, who has coached Chelsea and Real Madrid, parted ways with Turkey on Wednesday.
''My job is to talk to everyone, not necessarily to recruit such and such, but to build a network,'' Leonardo said. ''We have to think of the future, not just with Ancelotti.''
PSG has not won the league since 1994 and last played in the Champions League seven years ago.
Thanks to massive backing from its Qatari owners, PSG spent ?82 million ($116 million) on players - spending ?42 million ($60 million) on Argentina midfielder Javier Pastore to break the French transfer record.
Many players in PSG's squad are aged 24 or younger, but Leonardo is apparently keen to sign the 36-year-old David Beckham as part of making a global statement.
''David Beckham sets a wonderful example, he's a great ambassador,'' said Prince Sheik Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, whose Qatar Sports Investments owns 70 percent of PSG. ''David Beckham goes beyond sport, but he's also still a very good player whose age is not a problem.''
Quite where Beckham would play in a team packed with internationals is another matter.
The right wing slot is currently held by Jeremy Menez. As well as being 12 years younger than Beckham, Menez is first-choice for France. He would be unlikely to stay long if his place was threatened.
While Beckham is renowned for his professionalism and work ethic, his arrival could cause problems in a PSG dressing room notorious for numerous squabbles over the years.
''There'll always be egos. Football isn't a utopia, we're not in church,'' Leonardo said. ''If a player's scared, he can't stay here.''
Kombouare has so far managed to keep his players under control, while Ancelotti would have to start all over again.
Menez and midfielder Blaise Matuidi have spoken out in favor of Kombouare staying, as have former PSG stars in France midfielder Luis Fernandez and Brazilian playmaker Rai.
Leonardo has given Kombouare his backing but it appears tentative.
''We're in first place and doing a lot of good things,'' he said. ''But there are also other areas where we could do better.''
PSG's shock 3-2 defeat to Dijon in the League Cup last month displeased Leonardo.
''A minor trophy? It's a defeat,'' said Leonardo, a World Cup winner with Brazil in 1994. ''If you think that way then defeat becomes the norm.''
The poor quality of PSG's approach play in the 1-1 draw away to Bordeaux 10 days ago also concerned him. Even the 22-year-old Pastore is looking jaded, although he didn't have a proper preseason.
PSG's reincarnation into a club chasing big names will take some getting used to after having once been in disarray.
Not so long ago, PSG dominated the headlines because of its inability to deal with a festering hooligan problem anchored in political divide and racism, which cropped up at regular intervals from the mid-1980s until 2010.
Two ends of the Parc des Princes stadium - the Kop Boulogne and Tribune Auteuil - were violently opposed.
Boulogne was a Caucasian stronghold, with far-right elements making their presence known. Auteuil's end was mixed-raced - a noteworthy fact only because of its juxtaposition with Boulogne.
The club, claiming it needed police and government intervention, looked on as groups representing each end fought regularly between 2003-10.
PSG fan Yann Lorence died early last year after being caught up in fighting before a match against Marseille, when about 130 thugs from Kop Boulogne charged their Auteuil rivals.
In November 2006, an off-duty police officer shot and killed Julien Quemener, who was part of a Kop Boulogne group that chased and cornered a Jewish fan after PSG's UEFA Cup match against Hapoel Tel Aviv.
With fan groups disbanded, PSG is now a safer place to come.