“You will see when the time comes. It will not be easy for everyone, but it’s time to change. After five years, you must start a new cycle.”
A clean sweep of domestic trophies for a second successive season was not enough to sate the appetite of ambitious Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi.
His damning assessment of the 2015-16 campaign, which he labelled a “failure”, spelled the end of Laurent Blanc’s reign at the Parc des Princes.
Unai Emery has been chosen as his replacement and PSG will be expected to hit the ground running in the Trophee des Champions against Lyon on Saturday.
A repeat of last year’s 2-0 win in Quebec against the same opponents will be the first demand placed upon a man who led Sevilla to three consecutive Europa League titles.
That Canada triumph kick-started a 16-match unbeaten streak in all competitions for PSG, while their 2014 victory laid the foundation for a run of 23 games before a first defeat of the season.
With such impressive starts a theme during Blanc’s tenure, it is paramount Emery makes a strong early statement.
Blanc kicked off each of his three campaigns at the helm by picking up the first piece of silverware on offer and key to those successes was Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
The Swede won 11 trophies during his time in Paris and hit both goals in the 2014 Trophee des Champions win against Guingamp.
However, after a record-breaking 156 goals in a memorable four-year spell at the Parc des Princes, Ibrahimovic has left the building.
The former AC Milan striker, PSG’s undoubted talisman during the Blanc era, will continue his career with Jose Mourinho at Manchester United.
— Zlatan Ibrahimović (@Ibra_official) May 23, 2016
A direct replacement has not been signed, meaning Uruguay striker Edinson Cavani will be afforded more time in a central role, where he will be under pressure to increase his goalscoring contribution.
Regardless, Ibrahimovic’s exit further exemplified Al-Khelaifi’s commitment to wholesale change.
Gregory van der Wiel and Lucas Digne have also left the club, but Emery has moved quickly to stamp his mark on the squad with the signings of Hatem Ben Arfa, Grzegorz Krychowiak, Thomas Meunier and Giovani Lo Celso.
Such alterations can often require a bedding-in period, where players gel and take on the demands and philosophies of a new coach, but such a luxury is unlikely to be afforded in Paris.
The signs of life under Emery have been promising in pre-season. Convincing wins over European champions Real Madrid, Inter and Premier League title holders Leicester City in the United States have set the tone.
The emergence of 18-year-old winger Jonathan Ikone, signed to a professional contract in June amid reported interest from the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City, has been another boost for France’s dominant force on their American tour.
Ikone struck a sublime solo goal against Madrid and a cool finish against Leicester, displaying the potential to offer a new dimension to Emery’s attack.
While a fourth successive Trophee des Champions win is the immediate priority, the Spaniard’s ultimate goal is to bring European success to Paris.
Emery’s switch from Sevilla to the Ligue 1 champions will bring about a huge leap in pressure and expectations.
Securing some silverware will help enforce that he is the right man for the job and get the biggest season of his career, and a huge one for the club, off to the anticipated start.
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