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The ‘Galactico’ days are over – Luis Campos is already reshaping PSG

Luis Campos is already transforming PSG’s approach, bringing the club closer to its roots. Christian Liewig/Sipa.

It became clear in the days that followed Paris Saint-Germain’s Champions League exit to Real Madrid last season that change would be coming to the Parc des Princes. The French club’s ‘Galacticos’ approach of signing the biggest names in soccer had failed. A new approach was obviously needed, and PSG’s own supporters let them know.

Countless protests were staged. An outsider might see a a fanbase of spoiled supporters – after all, PSG still won the Ligue 1 title by 15 points last season – but fans weren’t protesting a lack of success. They were calling for the club to take on a new identity, something that might better reflect the community that revolves around PSG.

This is what Luis Campos has been brought in to achieve. Yes, the former Lille and Monaco sporting director was targeted due to his track record in building winning teams, but Campos sees a soccer team as more than just a collection of players. Everything he does is to build the strongest unit.

That in itself marks a fundamental change in approach for PSG. Last season saw Lionel Messi, Sergio Ramos, Achraf Hakimi, Georginio Wijnaldum and Gianluigi Donnarumma all arrive at the Parc des Princes with no plan on how Mauricio Pochettino would fit them all into the one functioning team.

Even the appointment of Pochettino as head coach was a reflection of the lack of holistic thought at PSG. At Tottenham Hotspur, the Argentina had favoured a brand of proactive, high-intensity soccer, but he was handed a group that couldn’t play this way in the French capital. It was a tactical misfit from the start.

Pochettino wasn’t the only person fired at the end of last season, with Leonardo also departing his role as sporting director, creating the vacancy that Campos would ultimately fill. Leonardo leaves behind a mess of a squad with no thread to link all the players signed over the years to great expense. Campos has a lot of work ahead of him.

However, Campos has already started to mould PSG in his own image. A mere 24 hours ago, he moved for Porto’s Vitinha in a €40m transfer. The idea is that the 22-year-old will be a key part of the PSG squad for years to come. He might not be the complete package right now, but the potential is there. The move comes weeks after convincing 20-year-old defender Nuno Mendes – on loan from Porto’s Primeira Liga rival Sporting – to remain in Paris for a similar fee.

The signings of Vitinha and Campos, as well as Campos’ next transfer target, signal a shift in strategy at PSG. The French champions could have moved for Paul Pogba after his exit from Manchester United, but are focused on finding a central midfielder that can bring off-the-ball work ethic. With this in mind, Renato Sanches has become a target.

Sanches might have flopped at Bayern Munich, but the Portuguese international has used that experience to take his game to another level. Campos signed Sanches for Lille, and after appearing set to join AC Milan this summer, Campos submitted a bid from his new post at PSG. The 24-year-old would certainly give them a different dimension in the centre of the pitch.

Zinedine Zidane would have been a headline-worthy appointment as PSG’s new manager, but Campos has instead identified Christophe Galtier as the man he wants to take over this summer. Galtier led Lille to the Ligue 1 title in 2020/21 and is well known to Campos. The pair should have a good working relationship in their new jobs in Paris. 

“We chose another option,” PSG president president Nasser Al-Khelaifi explained in an interview. “We chose a coach who will be the best for what we want to put in place. We want players who love the club, who love to fight, who love to win. And we want this mentality to spread throughout the club.”

Al-Khelaifi also went on to explain how he envisages PSG one day fielding a team consisting entirely of Parisian players. It’s certainly true the club has ignored the talent growing beneath its own feet since the Qatari takeover a decade ago and part of Campos’ new job will be to re-establish a connection between PSG’s youth ranks and the first team.

That might take some time, but Campos is acting quickly to make an impact in the short-term as well. PSG still expect to win the Champions League at some point in the near future, and they’ll want to see more from Messi this season, but there has at least been an acknowledgment that what they were doing was never going to work.

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