Patrick Kluivert an odd choice as Paris Saint-Germain director of football
Just over three years to the day since Leonardo left his position as Paris Saint-Germain's sporting director, the French champions have found somebody to fill the void left by the Brazilian transfer guru. In a surprise announcement on Thursday, the club revealed that Patrick Kluivert is the new director of football at the Parc des Princes.
The 40-year-old Dutchman's arrival has not concerned fans in the capital but it does raise questions over the off-the-pitch direction in which the Ligue 1 giants are heading.
Kluivert has never occupied a position like this before and his connections with PSG and Le Championnat are tenuous at best. The former Netherlands international, who played for the likes of AFC Ajax, AC Milan and Barcelona in his prime, finished his storied career in France with Lille OSC back in the 2007-08 season.
Since retiring, Kluivert has held a number of assistant manager roles with the likes of AZ Alkmaar, Brisbane Roar, NEC Nijmegen and the Netherlands, while he has also coached Jong FC Twente and the Curacao national team; his mother was born on the Caribbean island. The UEFA Champions League-winning former player was set to take charge of Ajax's A1 youth team this coming season but now finds himself in a position at PSG where coach Unai Emery and assistant sporting director Olivier Letang answer to him.
Kluivert's experience in football since ending his playing days has been varied but nothing he has done so far will have prepared him for the role he is taking on in Paris.
Lille's deputy managing director, Jean-Michel Vandamme, knows the man from Amsterdam well after the pair were at Les Dogues together between 2007-08. However, the LOSC director does not see Kluivert as an ideal choice for such a critical position. "No," Vandamme told L'Equipe. "If he's a leader recognised for his talent [on the pitch], I don't see him as someone who's going to sort everything out, who's going to order Letang around or impose his views on Emery."
"I see him working more in a horizontal way rather than a hierarchical one," Vandamme added. "He's a brilliant guy, who leads you with exemplary skill, but he's not a leader of men."
PSG's decision is certainly an odd one; the timing was also complete surprise as no French media caught wind of it before the appointment was made official. What makes the French giants' choice even stranger is that it has come at a time when there are a number of suitable, available candidates for the sporting director role.
Transfer genius Luis Campos recently left AS Monaco and was replaced by Antonio Cordon, who left Villarreal CF after almost 20 years of fine work, while ex-sporting director Leonardo himself is still without a role after leaving PSG back in 2013, regularly linked with a return. There is no doubt that the Ligue 1 champions have been missing a figure of influence at the sporting director/director of football level since the Brazilian departed, particularly when it comes to signing and selling players.
Yet Kluivert's appointment appears to add little more than prestige to Les Parisiens' hierarchy at this stage, with no proven track record compared with the likes of Campos, Cordon and Leonardo.
Letang has enjoyed some success in the transfer market since being left to go it alone after his predecessor's exit; the signing of Angel Di Maria last summer was a particular highlight and the arrival of Grzegorz Krychowiak looks like it will be excellent value for money. However, the acquisition of David Luiz should not be considered a positive based on his on-field form, while Benjamin Stambouli and Kevin Trapp have also failed to truly convince.
The jury is still out on this summer's business for now, obviously, but despite the arrivals of Krychowiak, Hatem Ben Arfa, Thomas Meunier and Giovani Lo Celso, PSG are yet to adequately fill the Zlatan Ibrahimovic-shaped hole since the Swedish superstar's move to Manchester United.
Kluivert and Letang, along with technical director Carles Romagosa, will now work together to give Emery what he needs to make the French capital outfit successful on the pitch this coming season. At least for now, though, it appears that paymasters Qatar Sports Investments (QSI) have identified the right role to fill, but perhaps not the right candidate to occupy it.
The new arrival's other tasks have been described as "defining the club's long-term sporting strategy" and "liaising with the biggest clubs and players in the world," so it seems like there is real power in the position. However, only time will tell whether Kluivert's arrival is a decorative move or actually has teeth.
Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.