Thomas Tuchel set for PSG but question marks remain over European pedigree
He was not among the favourites at the beginning but Thomas Tuchel has won the race. The German will be the next Paris Saint-Germain manager, sources have told ESPN FC.
His appointment is unlikely to be officially announced before the end of the season and the departure of Unai Emery but there is no doubt the former Borussia Dortmund man will be in charge at the Parc des Princes come July when the players come back from their holidays and report for preseason.
Tuchel is so far from the profile the club wanted originally: a big name, with European pedigree, trophies in his cabinet and the man-management qualities needed to control an egocentric dressing room.
Antonio Conte, Massimiliano Allegri, Carlo Ancelotti or even Luis Enrique looked better suited to the job. Sources told ESPN FC that Nasser al Khelaifi, the PSG chairman, established contact a few weeks ago with Conte's entourage.
Antero Henrique, the sporting director, pushed for fellow Portuguese coaches Paulo Fonseca and Leonardo Jardim. In the end, and it says everything about the way the club is run, it was the Emir of Qatar himself, who owns the club, who decided Tuchel was the right man for the job. Al Khelaifi and Henrique had to follow.
So why Tuchel? His reputation as a tactical genius was a big factor. His Borussia Dortmund were great to watch, playing with a lot of intensity which is what PSG under Emery have lacked in Europe ever since the Qatar takeover.
However, this is a huge call. The last two managers, Laurent Blanc and Emery, were simply not good enough to do well in the Champions League and they failed. PSG cannot get it wrong a third time.
In many aspects, Tuchel is made in the same mould as Emery, but a much better version. Nevertheless, he is Emery 2.0. He is a tactician, obsessed with the game, with very strong principles in terms of diet, discipline and style of play. He is not the kind of guy who would renounce his philosophy to get a job like this. His training sessions are innovative, creative. For him, it's all about movement and the passing pattern. The problem with him has never been what is happening on the pitch but what is going on off it.
At Mainz and later Dortmund, the German never had to deal with a dressing room full of egos, with clans and tensions at times like the PSG one. He certainly never had someone like Neymar to coach, a genius of a player who pretty much does whatever he wants.
Would Tuchel be OK with the Brazilian organising a huge party for his birthday 48 hours before a league game like he did this season? You very much doubt it. Tuchel doesn't have the man-management of Ancelotti, Pep Guardiola or Jurgen Klopp. He is colder, more clinical in his relationship with players. Some love him and he takes them to another level (Ilkay Gundogan, Henrikh Mkhitaryan) because he is very good at improving his players.
Others never liked his approach and fell out with him like he fell out with the Dortmund hierarchy by regularly criticising them or disagreeing on various points. How will this go down in Paris, where communication and critics are often an issue?
At least Tuchel speaks French well, which is a key thing to put his message across. But it will be very interesting to see how long he takes to get the players on board and if he gets the full respect that Emery never got.
What about Tuchel's lack of European pedigree? His best performance in the Champions League was the defeat against Monaco and a wonderful Kylian Mbappe in the quarterfinals last season.
PSG wanted a manager with a proven record in Europe yet they chose one that hasn't got one. At 42, this is a huge move for Tuchel and a big gamble for PSG, who have to get it right this time.
Thinking differently is not a bad thing when picking a manager. It can pay off massively. But it can also fail miserably.
Julien Laurens is a London-based French journalist who writes for ESPN FC and Le Parisien. Follow him on Twitter: @LaurensJulien.