Leonardo leading French revolution
A sporting revolution has been brewing in the French capital this summer as Paris Saint-Germain's hungry new owners have hatched a plot to change the landscape of European football.
The €42m signing of Argentina superstar Javier Pastore and the appointment of Leonardo as Director of Football confirmed the determination of Qatar Investment Authority Group to succeed in their mission after they acquired a majority stake in PSG, with their vast wealth raising the prospect of a new era dawning in the French game.
The role of ex-Internazionale and AC Milan boss Leonardo has been the subject of plenty of discussion since his arrival at the club last month, yet the well-connected ex-Brazilian international insists he will not undermine the coach whose position has been a subject of scrutiny all summer, PSG boss Antoine Kombouaré.
After Kombouaré came under increased pressure following a disappointing start to the Ligue 1 season that kicked-off with a 1-0 home defeat against Lorient, Leonardo insists the coach in place at Parc des Princes will be given time to find a winning formula as he looks to calm fraying nerves among the club's directors and their eager supporters.
"I know from first-hand how interference from other quarters can make life difficult for a coach, so I can say that we will allow Antoine to get on with his work," begins Leonardo, who starred for PSG during his playing days. "A peaceful working atmosphere has to be the best recipe for success. I'm there to support the coach and not hinder him. He understands this and is happy with the situation.
"How do I sum up my role at this club? I would say it is an over-arching one and I'm there to think of the long-term and the big picture, but that's not to say I won't be judged on results, just as I was when I was coach at Inter or AC Milan.
"Myself, the first team coach and all the players appreciate that PSG has become the centre of attention in French football and we don't have a huge margin for error. This is a demand we should all thrive on and I am relishing the challenge."
Leonardo's claim that he will help rather than hinder the PSG coaching staff was given some weight by his success in securing the services of the highly prized Pastore, after he turned down the advances of Chelsea and agreed instead to a somewhat unexpected move to Ligue 1.
"With all due respect to the French league, I know I'm not going to a championship as prestigious as those in England and Spain, but in my heart and my mind I think I've made the best possible decision at this particular point in my career," begins the Argentine maestro who joined from Palermo at the start of August.
"Paris Saint-Germain have real ambitions to become one of the most competitive clubs in Europe and I'm honoured that their directors chose me to be one of the players to help them climb the mountain to where they want to be. I needed a new challenge in my career and they don't come any more thrilling than this."
Pastore admits he was tempted by the offer to join another lavishly financed club in Chelsea, but it seems the promise of regular first team action and Leonardo's fine sales pitch were the key factors in his move to sign for PSG.
"Chelsea are a huge club, one which every season is certain to be pushing for trophies in both England and the Champions League, but the problem was the amount of playing time available to me," continues the star who caught the eye for Argentina in this summer's Copa America. "Chelsea could not guarantee the sort of regular action that PSG could and if I'm to develop and improve I need to play.
"I'd like to think I could have fitted in well in London, but I'm happy with the choice I made and maybe people will appreciate it was the right decision if PSG develop as I expect in the next few years.
"Also, Leonardo did a tremendous job selling me the club and the French capital. He sees me as central to the project and that's a responsibility I hope will encourage me to raise my game even more. PSG are as hungry as me and remember, I have yet to win a trophy in my career. The motivation is to put that right immediately with my new club."
French league success and Europa League glory are the targets for PSG this season, but Leonardo confirms Champions League glory is the ultimate target for the Qatari investors who have the finances to back up their ambitions.
"The Champions League the promised land in the distance," states Leonardo. "Naturally the aim is to make PSG a highly-competitive football team, a side to be respected in France and Europe, but we all want to be part of the biggest competition and that is a target for next season.
"However, it has to be stressed that we're not looking to be overnight sensations. Our mission is to build an exciting, winning team and be exemplary in terms of our organisation and backup. We can't be rushed as good things take time and I'm hoping to see the real fruits of our work in two or three years time."
Leonardo's plea for patience is unlikely to be appreciated by those funding PSG and the player recently described by World Player of the Year Lionel Messi as 'the most talented young Argentine around at the moment' accepts instant success in the French capital may be the only acceptable recipe.
"Ah these nice comments from Leo keep being mentioned to me," adds Pastore with a smile. "All I can say is he is too kind. Obviously, these words are worth a great deal to me as good opinions from your peers always do you good, but when they come from an icon like Leo, it's even more satisfying.
"Messi is the sort of player and human personality I aspire to be. Brilliant and decisive on the pitch, humble off it and a perfect team-mate. It goes without saying that I'd like to line up with him regularly for Argentina and hopefully this move to PSG will allow me to take my game to the next level.
"PSG are aiming for the top and there is nothing wrong with that. Ambition is a powerful motivating force and it's a pleasure to be in a place where everyone is looking to make their mark. We need success quickly here, for sure, and I believe it will happen for us."
PSG's early season disappointments may be banished once record signing Pastore is ready take centre stage in their side and Kombouaré can only hope he is still in his job when that moment arrives.
Casualties are generally part of the plot line when big money investment flows into a club and the PSG coach looks likely to be the first fall guy if this club's rapidly inflated expectations are not satisfied sooner rather than later.