As Santiago Nasar lived his last hours in the Colombian Caribbean town where the action takes place in A Chronicle of a Death ForetoldMauricio Pochettino is still the coach of Paris Saint-Germain these days. “There are many rumours. They already kicked me out every week,” the Santa Fe native recalled a few days ago. Although the club did not make his separation official, the dance of names from which his replacement would emerge has been danced for a long time in the French capital.
Zinedine Zidane, the Brazilian Thiago Motta, the German Joachim Löw, the Spanish Roberto Martínez, the Italian Antonio Conte and even Marcelo Gallardo were mentioned as candidates to land on that bench where Pochettino still sits and that, according to his contract, it should occupy until June 2023. Among so many brilliant names, one less sonorous was heard loudly in the last few hours: Christophe Galtier.
The decision would mark a first for the club: in the 11 years of management of the Qatari Sovereign Investment Fund, PSG never looked for a coach who was working for a French League team. In this period, Carlo Ancelotti, Laurent Blanc, Unai Emery and Thomas Tuchel passed before Pochettino. All arrived with recent records outside of France. Galtier is the other side of it.
Mauricio Pochettino and Christophe Galtier, present and future of Paris Saint-Germain? (Photo: Franck Fife / AFP)
This 55-year-old Marseillais began his career as an assistant at Olympique in his city (the club where he had made his debut as a footballer in 1985) in 1999, just a few weeks after hanging up his boots (his last club was Chinese side Liaoning). Shortly after beginning this journey and while he was Bernard Casoni’s assistant, He co-starred with Marcelo Gallardo in the most embarrassing event of his career.
On April 7, 2000, during halftime of the match that Olympique and Monaco played at the Velodrome for the 34th date of Ligue 1, Gallardo and Galtier got into a fistfight in the corridor that linked the pitch and the changing rooms. The current DT of River ended that night in a hospital, with a swollen face, a black eye and a badly bruised chest, and reported that he had been the victim of an ambush.
“Gallardo insulted me and hit me. I answered with a reflex of self-defense”, justified Galtier, who was suspended for six months due to that incident whose seriousness caught the attention of even Marie Buffet, the Minister of Sports of the Government headed by Jacques Chirac. “What happened was extremely serious for top level sport, professional sport and sport in general. What an example for young people who see their idols attack each other in the corridors of a stadium,” lamented the official.
Marcelo Gallardo, the night he had a fight with Christophe Galtier.
Despite that skirmish and the suspension he had to serve, Galtier continued to work at Olympique until mid-2001. Then he had experiences abroad in the Greek Aris Thessaloniki, the Emirati Al Ain and the English Portsmouth, and also played in his country in Bastia, Sochaux and Olympique de Lyon, always as an assistant.
His first experience as head coach began on December 15, 2009, when Saint-Etienne fired Alain Perrin, the coach with whom he was an assistant and with whom he had also worked at Sochaux and Lyon. He had to take charge of a team that had only won one of its last nine games and was flirting with relegation.
Galtier managed that season to keep the most winning club in the history of Ligue 1 in first place. And in the following seasons he brought it back to the fore: he was champion of the League Cup in 2013 and took it to the Europa League in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016.
Christophe Galtier managed Saint-Etienne for seven and a half years.
On December 29, 2017, six months after leaving Saint-Etienne, it was his turn to take charge of a very beaten team: Lille, who came from a brief and unsuccessful cycle under the command of Marcelo Bielsa. After taking the reins with the team in the penultimate step of the table, Galtier managed to keep it in first, as had happened in the green jersey team eight years earlier.
After a runner-up finish in 2019 and a creditable fourth place in 2020, Galtier’s Lille achieved what seemed impossible: they dethroned Paris Saint-Germain and took the title in 2021. And he achieved it with a modest budget and a squad without stars, which he made up with the advice of the Portuguese Luis Campos, who was presented this week as the new sports advisor for the men’s branch of PSG football.
Just two days after getting the title, he announced his departure. “This four-year cycle is long enough for a coach. I feel that this is the time to leave this beautiful club. I need something else. I don’t want to fall into a routine, as happens many times, as happened to me in Saint-Etienne”, he justified.
Christophe Galtier celebrates winning the Ligue 1 title with Lille on May 23, 2021. (Photo: Lewis Joly / AP)
From there he moved to Nice, with whom he completed an acceptable first season, in which he finished fifth in Ligue 1 (achieved qualification for the Conference League) and was runner-up in the French Cup (lost the final against Nantes). In that tournament, he eliminated Paris Saint-Germain in the round of 16 and Jorge Sampaoli’s Olympique de Marseille in the quarterfinals.
However, none of this satisfied Julien Fournier, Nice’s director of football, who last Friday, in an interview published in L’Equipe, drew a rather gray balance. “I think Galtier could have been more successful. This team, as constituted, could have obtained better results. With more offensive drive, sometimes with more courage, ”said the leader, quite uncontemplative with the coach.
According to L’Equipe, the link between Galtier and Fournier reached “a point of no return” and although the DT has one more year on his contract, on the Côte d’Azur they already know that they will not have him next season. “When a club like PSG comes looking for one of your players or your coach, it’s hard to say no,” acknowledged Fournier. Everything indicates that he will soon receive from the French capital an offer that he will not be able to refuse.