In Part 2 of our extended interview with Paris Saint-Germain boss Mauricio Pochettino, the Argentine talks Champions League, the Ligue 1 Uber Eats title, new signings and the staggering talent level in France - as well as making a surprising comparison with England. Interview...
You got to a Champions League final with Tottenham, that was an incredible achievement and more of a surprise. Now you are almost expected to do that with PSG. Is it pressure or is it exciting for you?
We arrived at the semi-final against Manchester City last season, and hope this season to arrive again, to be there, with the best teams in Europe. But like I told you before, it is an obligation for many people around, yes, but for us we need to be a little bit far of that. We need to create our wish, our desire, to be there and to conquer this trophy. If we feel that it's an obligation we start to put the limits, to put on the shoulder too much things that are not going to help in the end. That is why we need to live that history or experience wishing to win, not to feel like it is an obligation.
You want to win back your domestic title this season too… You've made an excellent start, that must be really pleasing given that there are many new players who have come into the team and are settling in?
I think Paris Saint-Germain made a very good shop, first trying to improve in the different areas where we need to improve, we identified, and then to attack the market doing great business with players who are at the end of their contract. That was a very good shop in two different ways that we need to recognise the club make.
You said the new signings are all fine players, but also fighters with a winning mentality (Hakimi, Ramos, Gini clear examples of that). Was that a priority for you?
I think it was the priority of the club. I am part of this football club. I think the club identified the players that were available on the market and I think made a very good shop. But of course I am happy not only with the players who came and are today in the squad, if not with the players who were here last season, I am very happy with the squad. Maybe a bigger squad but with massive quality.
Your teams are known for their pressing and their aggression… are you starting to see a team really in your own image now?
I think we need always as a coaching staff to adapt in our ideas. When you arrive to a different club with different characteristics as well of the players. The most important is to try to decide the plan for them, or their strategy to them to performance in the best way and to try to win games, because that is the objective for any coaching staff. Our identity, or our sign of how we love to play, maybe in different clubs maybe we can use that 100 percent in different clubs, a percentage maybe higher, in Paris maybe it is less. But always being clever in… like the club need to be clever in sign a new coach and coaching staff. What the players need, how the players are, the players can deliver it's own job or not, and in that case the same, the coaching staff can deliver for some club some shop, That is I think so important to realise. And for us the coaching staff we need to analyse that and to know what we have in our hands, and to design the strategy for them to play in the best way and to perform and in the end to deliver in the job.
Hakimi has settled in incredibly quickly!
Yes, he was really well from the beginning, not only doing his job you know, scoring goals. And adding to the team… giving to the team very good points, helping the team to achieve points. Yes I am happy with him, but with the rest of the players that arrived this season too.
Was Hakimi's late goal away to Metz an example of the kind of determination and fighting spirit you are seeking?
Yes it's true that we were showing great mentality until the end. Games like Metz and Lyon too. And yes, that is a group of players that for me are winners, have great mentality, are in PSG because they show their quality maybe in another club… and players that are born in PSG, different cases like Kimpembe, that had this quality from the beginning, no? From when they started their career, when they played with the kids in the academy of PSG. I think it's important and we know very well that they are very talented players.
It really feels like the league is getting stronger… This season, Marseille, Nice, Lyon, Monaco, Rennes and even Lens have joined PSG and Lille among the contenders. Do you sense this improvement too?
Yes but my impression is that it is a very complicated league. The quality is there. I think it's the most physical league in the world. I think the talent is amazing, and the great coaches too that you discover when you are not here now… French and foreign coaches that are here are very good. And of course it's a league that I don't say that surprise us, but of course when you are involved and you are inside you enjoy a lot. Every single game you can see all the teams have quality, have the capacity to win the games, never give up, I think it's a very good, very good league, and we are so happy to be here.
You think it's more physical even than the Premier League?
That would surprise people in England.
Well, always… I don't say that it's a better league than the English, than the Premier League, I think that in the way that the games are here, I think they are more physical than the Premier League.
One of the difficulties as well… you talked about surprises, there are so many young players, and each year we see new young talents, and in the recent game against Rennes we saw the teenager [Kamaldeen] Sulemana was superb against PSG. That makes it challenging as well for you?
MP. Yes of course. It's a massive massive challenge. France is a country with in football they for me… if you see the national team of France and I think they have amazing quality and talent. And of course they have the capacity to create this kind of talented players, and after to send to different leagues, no? Spain, Premier League, of course the Bundesliga, Italy. But I think because of this characteristic of the football here in France that is why the French player can adapt very quick to the Premier League because they are very similar, no? But yes, it's a massive challenge because in every game that you play you discover a new player.
Watch this space for the third and final instalment of our interview with Mauricio Pochettino...