Signs point to Emery being let go by PSG before next season
On paper, it is pretty straightforward and simple: If Unai Emery wants to stay for a third season at Paris Saint-Germain, his team will have to reach the semifinal of the Champions League. A clause in his contract states that, if the Parisians get to the last four then the option of a third year will be automatically triggered. If they don't, he is out.
However, PSG don't really follow contract terms or options; it is almost like they don't mean much to them. They sacked Antoine Kombouare in December 2011 despite being top of the table at Christmas. Kombouare, now the Guingamp manager, still had six months left on his contract.
They gave Laurent Blanc a two-year deal in February 2016, then sacked him four months later at the end of the season after he had a shocker against Manchester City in the Champions League quarterfinal.
So getting rid of Emery would be no different, regardless of his contract status. This exit would also cost far less than Blanc, who left the club with a €20 million cheque in his pocket!
In truth, the noise coming out of Paris is that, whatever happens this season, Emery won't be the PSG manager next season. Even if he reached the semifinal of the Champions League -- even if he wins the whole competition -- his time looks to be up.
The humiliating debacle against Barcelona last year -- a 4-0 win at home in the Champions League Round of 16 first leg was followed by a 6-1 defeat at the Camp Nou -- is still a burden for Emery and an argument for the people who want him out. Overall, his record is excellent but, with the squad and the players at his disposal, it would be expected.
More importantly, he failed to win the league last season, beaten by Monaco. And his ability to deal with Neymar and a dressing room of stars and big egos is in question. He has been at the Parc des Princes for 18 months, but hasn't managed to establish his authority on his squad and doesn't have much control.
There was the Edinson Cavani-Neymar spat at the beginning of the season and then, last week, Cavani and Javier Pastore were dropped from the squad for coming back late from their holiday. Not for the first time, Emery was not good in his communication about the incident and not clear about a potential sanction.
Emery is a tactician. It looks like he is only interested in the game, in how to set up his team, in working on his tactics, as opposed to everything around it. The problem is that, at a big club like PSG, you have a key role to play off the pitch as well. Emery doesn't have the temper, the charisma, the shoulders and, quite possibly, the desire to do it.
On top of everything else, there is Neymar's attitude. Since early in his time at the club, there has been speculation that the Brazilian superstar doesn't rate his manager and finds his video analysis sessions too long and boring.
Neymar has his own privileges and seems to pick his games. He didn't play at Nantes on Sunday, citing a rib problem, yet trained normally the day before and the day after the match. There was a similar case before a game vs. Montpellier game earlier in the season and let's not go into his trip to Brazil for urgent family reasons in December, when he spent a lot of time at his dentist and at a party for his friend's dad.
Emery is not alone to deal with all of this; it is also part of the job of sporting director Antero Henrique and his assistant Maxwell, a former player for the club. But there are those at PSG, who feel the manager doesn't have enough of a grip on his players and that he should do much more than just focus on tactics.
Antonio Conte, Mauricio Pochettino, Mikel Arteta and Jose Mourinho have all been mentioned possible successors to Emery and, at present, it looks like Conte is the leading candidate. The Italian would certainly implement a different regime at the club and is a world-class manager with a proven record of success.
Julien Laurens is a London-based French journalist who writes for ESPN FC and Le Parisien. Follow him on Twitter: @LaurensJulien.