“No more. Do you hear me? No more.”
“With all due respect, it is my decision who we sign for the future, Mr Franjo.” Growls Stefano Braghin, Paris Saint-Germain’s head of youth development.
“Well it’ll be mine going forwards.” I reply. “From now on, I’ll make the bids.”
“Is an extremely talented footballer I am sure, but I have lost my patience now. We do not need any more attacking midfielders.” I pronounce each word slowly and clearly, like I’m mouthing the message to a fucking idiot through a sheet of soundproof glass. I’m so sick of having this conversation. It’s not Stefano’s fault, well not entirely, but this club is fucking addicted to signing midfield playmakers. I’ve assumed control of all youth signings from here on out after having to step in to cancel our latest bid for Barcelona’s Norway U21 international Gaute Mikkelsen.
I lean back in my comfortable chair as Braghi shuffles out of my new office and sigh. In all honesty, I didn’t even realise until now that he was responsible for youth signings. Never mind though. At least that’s us sorted, so now we can focus on the draw for the Champi-
“Boss,” Bechkoura opens the door without knocking and sticks his head through. “Devos says to remember that Ricardo Ibarra’s expecting you to buy a striker before the window closes.”
“Kean is our striker for the time being, but thank you, Bechkoura.” I reply curtly. He nods and his head disappears behind the door as it closes.
As I was saying, now that all that’s sorted, we can focus on the draw for the Champions L-
“Boss,” Bechkoura’s head reappears around the door without even the faintest of knocks. “Do you want me to get back to United about that Lucas bid?” I sigh again.
“Uh, yeah actually. Tell them no, please. I want to keep him around at least until Marquinhos is fit again.” Bechkoura salutes and disappears once more, before slamming the door unnecessarily.
So yes, with all of those things firmly out of the way, the dr-
“Boss?” Says Bechkoura’s reemerging head.
“Can you knock, for fucks sake?”
“Coman, Kovacic and Kean all named in Team of the Week.” He smiles and gives me a thumbs up, which I return.
“Richly deserved. Thank you, Bechkoura.” He closes the door once again.
So now that all of that’s out of the way… I pause for a moment… The draw for the Champions League has been made. Paris Saint-Germain have been placed in a spicy looking Group C and we’ll have some tough opposition. Let’s have a quick look:
Anders Lingaard’s København are by far the weakest team in the group but to take victory over the Danish Champions for granted would be silly. They may have a bit of a mental barrier to climb over though as Pep’s PSG beat them 3-0 and 2-1 in the 2020/21 Champions League and then 3-0 and 3-0 last season. They won’t be looking forward to taking us on again. They’ll also be my very first Champions League opponents.
Marcelo Gallardo’s men should be very tricky as they’re enjoying a bit of a resurgence in La Liga after a difficult few years. They finished 4th last season, which is essentially the “Best of the rest” spot in that league. Nevertheless, we will still be favourites for the win and I look forward to giving them a tough time in their first Champions League group since 2016/17. Incidentally, they qualified from the group stage that season, only to be knocked out in the first knockout round by… Unai Emery’s Paris Saint-Germain.
Now this one should be a doozie. Luciano Spalletti’s Serie A Champions, Roma. As it happens, Roma were also in Group D in 2020/21 along with PSG and København and like the latter, they lost twice to Pep’s side: 3-1 and 3-1. For anyone interested, the final team in that group was FC Porto. I’m chomping at the bit to take on a Roma side that’s performed so well in the last few years and I’m even more eager to go back to the Stadio Olympico, the site of my 4-5 defeat to Belgium in June and seek some form of revenge on the stadium’s usual occupants.
I want to better whatever Pep’s achieved in all competitions this year with the obvious exception of the Trophée des Champions. He won the league once in 4 years, reached the 1st knockout round of the Champions League twice, the quarter final once and the semi final once. The Semi-Final appearance was during that same league winning 2020/21 season, after which he fell off considerably. I have the opportunity here to better Emery’s results against Sevilla, to better Pep’s results against København and Roma and to better both of them and all of the others by winning the bloody thing and bringing the Cup back to Paris for the first time, thereby cementing myself as the greatest Paris Saint-Germain manager of all time. Is it perhaps the tallest of tall orders? Yes. Do I back us to pull it off? Why the fuck not.
But the Champions League still seems so far away. First we’re hosting the Friday night match against Olympique de Marseille, then there’s the transfer deadline and then I’m flying over to Austria to oversee my first ever match with England, so let’s put a pin in those hopes and dreams for the moment, shall we.
There’s not much to report in terms of our team for this one; We absolutely dismantled Lorient last week so I’m sticking to the same starting XI. Marseille look like they’ll set up to stifle us and deny us space through the centre, but to be honest I’m all for it. Project: InSeine has so far dominated sides in the centre of the park so I’m interested to see how well we break Marseille down when they’re using 2 holding midfielders precisely to stop us from doing so. My record signing Éder makes the bench and is given the number 27 shirt.
The first 20 minutes is quiet and our opening goal comes as a result of a defensive mistake as much as anything else. Kovacic is forced to try and go direct with a long ball to Kean but the Italian is beaten to the pass by Armando Izzo, who then plays a sloppy ball towards Augustinsson on the left. Coman takes advantage of the wayward pass, nipping in and reclaiming possession before sprinting full pelt towards goal. As Augustinsson and Izzo give chase fruitlessly, our winger bursts into the box, sees Werner step off his line and drills a low shot past him into the net to give us the lead.
A few minutes later, Coutinho plays a pass inside to Kovacic 25 yards out and the Croatian tries to make space for a shot, but Kessié slides in brilliantly to knock the ball away as far as Orlando. Our winger has an effort blocked by Gumny on the edge of the box and the loose ball falls perfectly in front of Coman on the right hand side, who lashes a half volley against the far post. The ball rolls back in front of Kean, but Izzo manages to get the better of him again and clear it. We go close a couple more times before the break, with Orlando picking out Kovacic on the edge of the box and the midfielder slamming an expertly struck volley against the bar before Coman’s rebound attempt is blocked by Yao.
At half time and despite our lead, I make the decision to try and work our play down the wings, as their compact shape is definitely affecting our Project: InSeine through the middle and restricting us to half chances and snapshots. Just after the restart though, we’re nearly pegged back when Enes Ünal draws Triponez out of position and chips the ball around him for Veglio, who sees his shot tipped behind by Donnarumma. The next quarter of an hour is no more fruitful either, so we make a couple of subs to freshen things up in the middle. On comes Manuel Bueno for his first appearance of the season in place of Kean, while Kovacic jogs off to be replaced by debutant Éder, who gets a warm ovation from the home fans.
That does the trick. Just 4 minutes after the changes, Éder passes to Philippe Coutinho, who plays a superb ball over the Marseille defence for who else but Kingsley Coman to run onto in the box. Coman brings the ball down skilfully, dribbles into the 6 yard box and slots in our 2nd.
At 2-0 I’m pretty certain that the match is ours, but it still jangles my nerves when Coutinho’s dispossessed by Bentaleb in the 74th minute and the former Spurs midfielder plays a long ball over our defence for Ünal. Donnarumma rushes out well to meet him though and blocks the Turkish striker’s eventual shot with ease. After that, we drop back to a withdrawn 4-2-3-1, Cvitanovic replaces Orlando on the left and we set up to soak up whatever pressure Marseille put on us, but the final quarter of an hour is pleasingly eventless.
That is a solid win if ever I’ve seen one. So far there have been disclaimers to our victories; Small asterisks next to each one. Yes we beat Lyon, but we relied on a last minute winner. Yes we beat lorient, but although they overachieved last season, the 3 points were to be expected. Marseille absolutely nosedived last season under Roberto Mancini, finishing 14th in Ligue 1, but they are still a top French club with the squad of a top French club. A solid win against them with a clean sheet to boot is very pleasing to me.
I’m quite excited now to join up with my first England squad. Matches against Austria and Spain in the European International League await and I’ve already named my squad, but before we get to that we’ve got transfer deadline day to deal with. Some more good news to kick us off though is that we’re the leading producer of elite footballers, which I can’t exactly take any credit for whatsoever, but it’s still nice to hear. What I will take some credit for is the fact that Auxerre are 3rd on the list, which is excellent.
We’ve also got 3 players in this week’s Team of the Week. Donnarumma and Ricardo Ibarra were solid and our keeper in particular did brilliantly to keep a clean sheet against Marseille. Kingsley Coman’s playing out of his skin at the minute and also gets a place.
And speaking of Kingsley Coman, he’s won the Ligue 1 August Player of the Month award at the first opportunity since rejoining his childhood club. He definitely deserves it and I’m happy to eat my words over Pep’s final signing. I thought him an unnecessary purchase initially, but if I’m to have a good season here, it looks like Kingsley’s going to be absolutely crucial, so long may his excellent form continue. In other news, Neal Maupay and Nathan Andre came in 2nd and 3rd. Interesting.
So while we’re on the subject, let’s talk strikers. Moise Kean had a pretty poor game against Marseille but I’m not ready to go back on what I said about him becoming our main striker just because of one game. There are however some players that I’ll be keeping an eye on over the next few months, just in case I need to bolster our attacking options in January. One of these players is Neal Maupay, another is Nathan Andre. You already know all about them, so I’ll just add that Neal’s scored 5 goals in his first 4 games this season, while Nathan has 3 in 3.
The thing about Darragh is that he hasn’t proved himself yet. Not really. He’s 21, an Irish International and has scored 33 goals in 109 league matches for Forest in the Championship. His best haul came last year when he scored 15 in 43, so he isn’t prolific, nor is he tried at a level even close to resembling Ligue 1, but I don’t know… There’s something about him. He fits my usual mould; hard working and switched on. He’s quick and strong enough to be a handful for opposition defenders and there’s no doubt he’s technically gifted. Plus the idea of an Irishman leading the line at Paris Saint-Germain is just genuinely exciting to me. Realistically he’s not at our level yet and initial talks with Forest reveal their asking price, which exceeds £30M. That’s way too much. I will be keeping an eye on him though, as I say. If he impresses this season I may be back.
So that’s me done for this window, I think. Time to sort out my jam-packed voicemail and see which offers have come in. First up is Koln and their £5.75M bid for Michal Hutka, who you haven’t met yet because he’s one of our many attacking midfield players. He’s a pretty good prospect so I’m not ready to let him go just yet and certainly not for such a low price. I reject the offer and sign Hutka up to a new deal.
One offer that I’m happy to accept though is new Auxerre manager Jocelyn Gourvennec’s £62k bid for our 5th choice Luxembourger goalkeeper, Youn Czekanowicz. This deal works for all parties and I let Jocelyn know that I’ll be happy to talk to him any time about any of my young players or reserves that he’s interested in. The Czekanowicz deal goes through quickly, although I do see with a heavy heart that the reason Jocelyn’s signed him is that he’s let Xavier Legod move to Marseille, where I’m sad to say I reckon he’ll be a benchwarmer. Or perhaps a Tim Krul-esque substitute for penalty shootouts. Best of luck, Youn and LeGod.
And then in come Bayern with a £40.5M bid for Donnarumma. “Obviously not.” I tell Allegri.
“Well how about Yûsuke Abe?” He asks. “£28M.”
“Again, no.” I reply. Abe is my backup goalkeeper and I think it’d be more trouble than it’s worth replacing him this late in the window. He’s obviously not a patch on Donnarumma, but at 23 years old he’s been capped 81 times by Japan, so he must be on course for some kind of record there. He’s also 6’8″ and really solid backup to our Italian vice-captain, so he’s not moving right now.
Knock knock knock. Of course. Abe wants to go, but I talk him down. If Bayern come back in January when I’ve got time to find a replacement, he’s welcome to move. For fucks sake, Allegri.
With a sigh of relief, midnight comes and the deadline passes. Predictably, I’ve signed only a defensive midfielder in my first window in Paris. We’ve got 3 wins out of 3, including pretty impressive victories over Lyon and Marseille and let’s not forget that Lorient finished 3rd last season. Monaco match aside, it’s been a good start. I’m happy. I switch off my office light and grab my trusty grey coat from the back of the door, then I make for the exit. I’ve got a plane to catch. I’m off to Austria for a quick kick about with their national side, after which, Spain will be heading over to Wembley. I’m coming home.