PARIS – Former Spain and Barcelona manager Luis Enrique was hired as Paris Saint-Germain's new coach on Wednesday, tasked with the mission to finally deliver the Champions League title but without guarantees that Kylian Mbappe will still be at the club after the summer.
Enrique, who signed a two-year contract, was introduced at a news conference hours after previous coach Christophe Galtier was dismissed following a disappointing season.
Club president Nasser Al-Khelaifi said his arrival will mark the start of a “new cycle, with a new style of play.”
PSG in an earlier statement thanked Galtier, who had one year left to run on his contract, “for his professionalism and commitment.” Galtier's assistants Thierry Oleksiak and João Sacramento were also fired.
In addition to his star-studded team’s mediocre performances, Galtier was destabilized by allegations he made racist and anti-Muslim comments when he was in charge of French club Nice. He has been summoned to stand trial in December as part of the investigation.
In its so far ill-fated quest for Champions League glory, PSG appointed an eighth coach in 12 years of Qatari ownership, with World Cup top scorer Kylian Mbappé set to play for a fifth coach since joining in 2017.
It's still unclear, however, whether the 2018 World Cup winner will still be wearing a PSG jersey next season. Mbappé has been at odds with PSG since telling the club last month that he would not take up the option of a 12-month extension on his contract, which expires at the end of next season.
Asked whether Mbappe would still be at the club next season, Al-Khelaifi was adamant the France international needs to agree on a new deal.
“We can't let him go as a free agent,” Al-Khelaifi said. “We can't let one of the best players in the world go for free.”
Enrique has been without a contract since Spain’s elimination from the World Cup last year. He pledged to keep the same attacking philosophy that has made his reputation, adding that he “loves the pressure” attached with the goal of winning the Champions League with PSG.
Since cash-rich Qatari investors took over in 2011, PSG has been a dominant force in France but has consistently failed to replicate that success on the European stage despite spending massive amounts on star players, including Lionel Messi who played his final game for the club last month.
The only Champions League final PSG reached was in 2020’s pandemic-shortened format when it lost to Bayern Munich.
The 53-year-old Enrique took over the national team in 2018 to start revamping the Spain squad after its elimination in the round of 16 of the World Cup in Russia. He temporarily left because of the illness and eventual death of his young daughter, but returned in 2019.
He helped Spain reach the last four of the Nations League twice, and also led it to the semifinals of the European Championship. He was more successful with Barcelona, winning the Champions League, La Liga, and Copa del Rey in his first season in charge.
Galtier led PSG to another French league title as expected, but the club was eliminated early in the Champions League and the French Cup by rival Marseille this past season. PSG’s form slumped after the World Cup, with 10 losses in 28 games in 2023.
PSG was unbeaten in all competitions when the European season paused in November for the World Cup in Qatar.
Mbappé’s league-leading 29 goals arguably saved the club from losing the title, which was retained with only one game to spare, and just one point ahead of unheralded Lens.
PSG's final game was a 3-2 defeat to modest Clermont and highlighted the glaring weaknesses in midfield and defense that Mbappé's goals have papered over.
Galtier signed a two-year contract last July after leaving Nice, which hired him after the French coach's outstanding leadership led Lille to the title over PSG in 2021 in a huge upset. Lille was the only team to deny PSG the trophy in six seasons with Mbappé, who joined for 180 million euros ($194 million) after winning the title with Monaco in 2017.
Since the start of the Qatari-backed era, Carlo Ancelotti is the only coach not to be fired, leaving for Real Madrid in 2013.
But Ancelotti was hired only after Antoine Kombouaré was astonishingly axed in December 2011 when PSG was three points clear of Montpellier at the top. PSG lost the title by three points in an embarrassing defeat, and the casual way in which Kombouaré was replaced set the tone for over a decade of musical chairs.
Petrequin reported from Brussels, Dunbar from Geneva.