Teams: Zeljeznicar & Chelsea
Vahid - a legend!
Vahid is performing miracles for PSG
Halilhodzic's PSG force
Wednesday, 17 March 2004
By Matthew Spiro
Vahid Halilhodzic's tough methods are bearing fruit
After several seasons of underachievement, Paris Saint-Germain FC are threatening to return to the big time under Bosnian coach Vahid Halilhodzic.
Saturday's 1-0 win at Le Mans UC 72 saw the club extend their unbeaten run to 16 games and they are now within five points of leaders AS Monaco FC. PSG's resurgence is all the more notable for the fact that Halilhodzic was given minimal funds to bring in new players following his arrival at the Parc des Princes in May.
Pauleta has readjusted to life under a new coach
"Last season PSG finished eleventh and everyone said they should've been higher," Halilhodzic told uefa.com. "But the league table never lies, and you have to realise they finished eleventh with Ronaldinho winning several games on his own. He was then sold and I've only had a small proportion of the fee to invest in new players." Without their Brazilian star PSG struggled at the start of the season, winning just one of their first five matches and finding themselves 17th in the table.
Halilhodzic revealed that he was feeling the pressure. "I quickly realised that coaching PSG was not the same as coaching Lille [OSC] or Stade Rennais [FC]," he said. "The pressure's infinitely greater. In Paris certain newspapers publish three of four articles on the club every day and they'll pick you up on the slightest thing."
I've mellowed since my Lille days
Renowned as a taskmaster, the former FC Nantes Atlantique striker believes the main reason for the slow start was that the players needed time to get used to his methods. "I've mellowed since my Lille days, but then I'm getting old," he smiled. "However I still regard hard, serious work as the key to success."
"At the start I asked players to make sacrifices - I told [Frédéric] Déhu to play centre-half and not midfield and I moved [Gabriel] Heinze from the centre to left-back. They weren't happy but we went from having the 17th-best defence in the league to the second best."
The turnaround has been dramatic. PSG have soared up the table thanks to a new-found team spirit, epitomised by the hard-working displays of their 12-goal striker Pauleta. "I told him I'd rather PSG finish fifth in the league with Pauleta 20th best goalscorer than finish tenth and Pauleta win the golden boot," said the coach. "He understood and now he works as hard as anyone when we haven't got the ball. To create an effective unit that has spirit and solidarity takes time but this PSG side is starting to resemble a Halilhodzic team."
Pauleta has also benefited from the arrival of one of Halilhodzic's few major signings, Danijel Ljuboja, the Serbo-Montenegrin international signed from RC Strasbourg during the transfer window. Ljuboja has had an outstanding start, scoring his fifth goal in seven games at the weekend, and helping to link the midfield and Pauleta. "I'm delighted with the way Danijel has started and I congratulate him for that," said the coach. "But he still has more to offer."
Halilhodzic is now hoping to make more quality additions in the summer. "Last summer several players chose not to join us even though we were offering the wages they wanted," he recalled. "During the transfer window some of them called us back to find out if we were still interested. Some even said they'd join for a lower salary than we were offering eight months ago. The club is becoming attractive once again." If PSG seal a place in next season's Champions League they will become more attractive still.
"I wanted to say we are like seljaks, not seljaks"