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Rio Ferdinand Defends Pochettino as PSG Collapse to Real Madrid in Champions League

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By Martin Graham | 11th Mar 2022

Rio Ferdinand, on BT Sport, defended Mauricio Pochettino, Paris Saint-Germain manager, after his side collapsed to Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu in the second leg of their UEFA Champions League round of 16 tie.

PSG went into the game with a 1-0 aggregate lead and within minutes in the first half, were up by another goal, courtesy of Kylian Mbappe, the scorer of the goal in the reverse fixture.

A 17-minute capitulation saw PSG lose their two-goal cushion to hand Real Madrid a 3-2 victory at the end of the night. Karim Benzema, Real Madrid captain, scored all three goals in a momentous hat-trick for the Frenchman that saw him surpass Real Madrid legends Raul Gonzalez and Alfredo di Stefano in two club different records.

Emotions were high after the match as PSG chief, Nasser Al-Khelaifi, sporting director Leonardo Araujo, and manager Pochettino were all distraught. Reports of a bust-up between Neymar and Gianluigi Donnarumma also made the media rounds after the game.

Back in the BT Sport studios during the game’s analysis, Rio Ferdinand defended Pochettino, claiming that the massive egos of the teams were difficult to manage.

Pochettino is facing the sack and French news outlet, Le Parisien, is reporting that the Argentine and sporting director Leonardo will both bear the fallout of another knockout round capitulation in the Champions League.

This week also marks the five-year anniversary of PSG’s 6-5 aggregate loss to Barcelona after having led 4-0 from the first leg under then-manager Unai Emery.

Ferdinand opined that the club have a history of losing in the competition and that Pochettino cannot be blamed for another loss.

Criticism of Pochettino unfair, says Ferdinand

Asked during the game’s full time analysis whether criticism of the former Tottenham Hotspur boss was fair, Ferdinand said: “I don’t think so given the history at PSG.

“Many managers have been there now and won the league and failed in the Champions League.

“We saw today how the team folded, and this isn’t just a one season episode, this is something that continually happens every single year where you go, ”do you know what, PSG with the talent they’ve got, especially in attacking areas, with the experience that they’ve got, an array of international big players they’ve got, they’re gonna have a chance of winning it’.

“And they fall at the quarter-final, semi-final hurdles, they’ve lost in the final. This is something that just happens. [It is a] dysfunctional team, I think that sums it up quite well about the way that they play.

“So I don’t think you can really point the finger too much at Pochettino when this has happened season after season.”

Ferdinand also insisted that the French giants are limited by their superstar attack of Mbappe, Neymar and Lionel Messi, whose massive egos have played a part in their predicament in Europe.

“I think it’s up to the manager to create that culture (where they don’t panic),” Ferdinand said. “But also this team, there have been massive egos, which is part of managing big clubs, and there are players that are genuine superstars.

“You’ve got Mbappe, you’ve got Neymar, you’ve got Messi now in this team playing upfront. And each of those players are players that you would probably allow as a one-off in your team to be a passenger and you all work for that player.

“To have three of them, makes it near impossible to do it at the top level. You can do it and get away with it in the French league like they do every year, they win the league.

“But at this level, to carry three players that aren’t gonna be able to work to the intensity that you probably need to win a tournament like the Champions League is very, very, very difficult.”

Martin Graham is an MFF sports writer

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