Leonardo, ubiquitous sports director, polyglot but overprotective, good buyer but bad seller, is the first from PSG in the new cycle launched by the extension of Kylian Mbappé, failing to have fulfilled the main contract of the Qatari shareholder: to win the Champions League. The 52-year-old Brazilian was sacked on Saturday May 21 after the evening of the celebration of the tenth national title, where he did not appear during the festivities.
Basically, maybe seeing him leave was part of the party for Paris SG, who wanted to turn the page on a complicated season. The face of the former PSG player turned manager remains associated with the incredible failure against Real Madrid, where the club collapsed in 17 minutes (3-1) despite having a foot and a half in the quarterfinals. C1 final.
This disaster sanctioned its recruitment policy, with many star purchases and few sales, and its excessive “cocooning” of players. Since then, “Leo” has been sidelined on the major issue, extending Mbappé, taken over by President Nasser al-Khelaïfi, who successfully resisted the advances of Real. For the Qatari, it’s time to open a new cycle, centered on the French world champion.
However, the former 1994 world champion winger has already worked to transform PSG under his two terms, from Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Lionel Messi. First sports director of the Qatari PSG, from 2011 to 2013, the elegant polyglot Brazilian had built the foundations of the armada of the beginnings, with first Javier Pastore, then “Ibra”, Thiago Silva, Marco Verratti or Marquinhos, the two the latter still being pillars of the team.
Leonardo’s first term ended in turmoil. He resigned in July 2013 after being suspended for nine months for a scuffle with the referee of a match against Valenciennes, Alexandre Castro, a sanction canceled a year later by the administrative court. His temper may have also heated up in the corridors of the Santiago-Bernabéu, UEFA having opened an investigation into his attitude and that of President al-Khelaïfi with the referees.
Back in 2019 at the helm of Parisian sports policy, he again scored some good moves on the transfer window, including superstars Lionel Messi and Gianluigi Donnarumma, who arrived free last summer. For the time being the arrival of Messi, never at his level of sevenfold Ballon d’Or, is a quack. But the two biggest moves were made without him, by al-Khelaïfi himself and Antero Henrique: Neymar and Kylian Mbappé, in 2017.
Internally, Leonardo is criticized for being good on recruitment, but not at all on sales, contributing to heavily unbalancing the trade balance of PSG. To take just one example, the German Julian Draxler, offered almost everywhere each transfer window, is still there, with his lavish salary, and he hardly plays. Or the extension last summer of Layvin Kurzawa, who has not played a minute in Ligue 1 this season.
The Brazilian, who knows all aspects of the job for having been an international player, manager and coach, in particular at AC Milan or Inter, is also accused of not having favored the inclusion of the players of the brilliant center training in the first team. From Kingsley Coman or Moussa Diaby yesterday to Xavi Simons these days, the club’s best youngsters often hatch elsewhere.
PSG buys a lot of stars, like David Beckham, “bankable” players who sell flocked shirts in their name, but sometimes at the expense of a team building logic. Symbol of this policy which has angered the ultras, the unfortunate Sergio Ramos, injured, who has only played 13 games since his arrival, and none of C1.
Another reproach circulating in the corridors of the Parc des Princes or the Factory, the headquarters of the club, “Leo”, very protective of the players, contributes to isolating the sportsman, described as “an ivory tower” by certain decision-makers, from the rest of structure. This way of incubating the players may have contributed to their fragile mind, which cracked as soon as Real raised their voices.
“I want to protect the secret of the locker room,” Leonardo told Agence France-Presse to justify the exclusion of more intimate and authentic scenes that ultimately contributed to making the product too smooth. Available to the media, “Leo” was the voice of the club, since President Nasser rarely speaks publicly and Mauricio Pochettino mainly talks about the pitch and very exceptionally non-sporting matters.