PARIS (AP) — Paris Saint-Germain's new coach, Laurent Blanc, has been left in no doubt by club president Nasser Al-Khelaifi that another French league title was expected next season.
PSG gave the former France coach a two-year deal this week to replace Carlo Ancelotti, who left the French champion to revive the fortunes of Real Madrid. Blanc told a news conference on Thursday that he's keen to be the first PSG coach to successfully defend the league title.
"When a club has been champion with 83 points and reached the quarterfinals of the Champions League, the goal for the following season is to do better," Blanc said. Ancelotti struggled to get PSG to play as a unit despite leading the club to its third league title. His team failed to get beyond the quarterfinal stage of any domestic cup competition, much to the disappointment of the club's owners.
"We'll have to be daring in our game," Blanc said, "but we'll have to keep a balance between playing attractive football and winning matches, because if we're bold on the pitch but lose matches, I know who will pay the bill."
Antoine Kombouare was dismissed in December 2011, even though PSG was top of the French league at the time. Ancelotti took over and steered PSG to a runner-up finish in his first season. In his second, Ancelotti realized he was on an ejector seat when PSG had a poor run of results in November and December 2012. The team slipped to fourth in the standings, fueling speculation that Qatar Sports Investments could replace the Italian coach.
"I know what awaits me. I know it's an exciting challenge but a tough one, too," Blanc said. "When you're in a big club, it's normal that the owners are demanding with the coach. That's the rule in any big club."
As a player, Blanc won the 1998 World Cup and the 2000 European Championship with France. As a coach, he led Bordeaux to the French league title and League Cup success in 2009. His tenure as France manager from 2010 to 2012 produced mixed results.
France reached the quarterfinals of the European Championship in Poland and Ukraine, but Blanc failed to quell indiscipline within the squad and stepped down. Al-Khelaifi made no effort to remove any pressure from Blanc's shoulders, bluntly saying in the news conference: "The fourth league title, it's for next season."
Despite still having a year left on his contract, Ancelotti said last month that he wanted to leave the wealthy French club this summer. Coaches such as Fabio Capello, Guus Hiddink and Andre Villas-Boas were linked with PSG. However, Blanc did not take offense at not being the club's first choice.
"It doesn't matter that I was not the first name on the list," Blanc said. "Very often in my career as a player, I was not the first name on the list. But the most important in the end is to be picked."
Because of uncertainty over the coaching situation, PSG has yet to make a move in the transfer market — having spent about 250 million euros in the past two seasons. By contrast, French league rival Monaco spent over 120 million euros last month to sign Radamel Falcao, Joao Moutinho, James Rodriguez and Ricardo Carvalho.
Blanc remained elusive about potential targets, saying only that he hoped the squad will be improved. In an attempt to quash speculation in the transfer market about Thiago Silva and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Al-Khelaifi said the Brazil defender and the Sweden striker will stay until the end of their contracts.