PSG and Manchester City are good news for football – Unai Emery
Paris Saint-Germain coach Unai Emery has declared his belief that his team and Premier League leaders Manchester City’s growing prominence in European football is good for the game.
The Ligue 1 leaders prised Brazilian superstar Neymar away from Barcelona for €222 million last summer and also managed to beat Real Madrid to the €180m signing of Monaco’s Kylian Mbappe, two traditional continental powerhouses, and Emery believes supporters should be “grateful” for the emergence of new powers.
“Real and Barca wanted Kylian,” the Spaniard told Marca. “However, PSG have the muscle to keep him at PSG and I think the transfer happened for sporting reasons and not financial ones — that is something new in this new European order.”
“The [traditional] clubs see their kingdom under threat [from PSG] and City, who are a team with new-found financial capacity. I think this is good for football, that there are these new teams. Everyone should be grateful.”
Ahead of next week’s Champions League round-of-16 first leg away at Real, Emery praised Neymar’s decision to join PSG and expressed his happiness at being able to coach the 26-year-old.
“It is true, Neymar was born to be a superstar,” he said. “I have never had a player like him and I am grateful to coach him.
“Neymar has made a sporting choice, to leave his comfort zone with Barcelona, and he now must earn respect here. He has the desire, he is hungry.
“PSG are lucky to have Neymar and Neymar is lucky to be here, in a team with all the conditions necessary to shine individually and achieve things collectively at the same time.”
Asked how he handles Neymar, Emery responded that he is not a difficult character and that their regular interactions are productive.
“Attention — he has plenty of heart and all of our discussions are always positive,” the former Sevilla coach said. “He always tells me that he came here to help, with humility.
“When the team needs to accelerate or score, they look for Neymar because he has the ability. Not everything rests on him, though. My job is to balance the team, so that his ability can prove decisive.”
Mbappe will get the chance to show Real what they missed out on at Santiago Bernabeu next week and Parc des Princes in March and Emery is excited about the France international’s potential.
“Kylian has a very bright future,” said Emery. “It is impossible to know exactly how far he can go.
“However, he is also from Paris. Previously, these players did not stay in France, PSG could not keep them. Things have changed. Now they can stay here for 15 years, which represents huge progress.”
Much has been made of the fact that PSG managed to sign Mbappe and Neymar in the same summer but Emery is confident that the Ligue 1 leaders were simply acting within UEFA’s financial fair play limits.
“Of course, there must be some balance,” Emery said. “However, the fact is that PSG has respected the financial fair play obligations laid out by UEFA.”
PSG are away at Toulouse in Ligue 1 this Saturday before travelling to Madrid to tackle Real next week.
Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.