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Paris St-Germain close to confirming Laurent Blanc as new manager

Paris Saint-Germain believe they have concluded their search for a new manager with the appointment of Laurent Blanc on a two-year contract.

The move would bring to an end what has been a saga and it will allow Carlo Ancelotti to complete his long-awaited transfer to Real Madrid. Ancelotti's arrival should, in turn, allow Madrid to sign off the striker Gonzalo Higuaín's proposed switch to Arsenal.

PSG have known for weeks about Ancelotti's desire to join Madrid and they have been engaged in a testing process to recruit his successor, in which they have variously targeted a host of candidates, including André Villas-Boas of Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal's Arsène Wenger.

Villas-Boas has a £10m buy-out clause in his White Hart Lane contract and PSG's backer, Qatar Sports Investments, have very deep pockets. But Tottenham were relaxed that Villas-Boas would resist their overtures and he did precisely that at the beginning of the week.

He was not the first and will not be the last high-profile manager to do so. PSG had sounded out Guus Hiddink, José Mourinho, Manuel Pellegrini and Wenger, the latter having long been the choice of Nasser al-Khelaifi, the club's president. Khelaifi, who is also the general manager of al-Jazeera Sport, the Qatar-owned TV station that employs Wenger as a pundit, first attempted to tempt the Frenchman to PSG in the summer of 2011.

He could yet try again next summer, when Wenger's contract at Arsenal is set to expire and Blanc's progress at PSG stands to be reviewed. But Arsenal's chief executive, Ivan Gazidis, intends to secure Wenger to a longer-term deal before then.

After Villas-Boas's rejection of PSG, the club turned, with increasing desperation, to Fabio Capello, the Russia manager, and they thought that they had a deal for him only for it to fall through at the last moment. Frank Rijkaard, the former Barcelona manager, made it clear that he was not interested in the vacancy before Khelaifi moved for Blanc.

Blanc, 47, managed France for two years up to last summer's European Championship, when the team made a disappointing quarter-final exit and, after a spell out of the game, he has been keen to return. He would bring his trusted assistant, Jean-Louis Gasset, to the Parc des Princes and link up with Claude Makélélé, who was a part of Ancelotti's coaching staff.

Ancelotti will take his English assistant manager, Paul Clement, with him from Paris to Madrid but Makélélé has signed a new contract to remain in the French capital. Blanc played alongside Makélélé for France.

Blanc's appointment was effectively confirmed in a Friday lunchtime tweet from beIN Sport, Khelaifi's subscriber al-Jazeera channel in France. "Agreement reached today with Laurent Blanc who becomes the PSG coach," it read but, hours later, Blanc's agent, Jean-Pierre Bernès, said that the agreement had not been finalised.

The claim and counter-claim has been watched with particular interest at Arsenal, where a club record fee has been set aside for Higuaín, as first revealed in the Guardian. The Argentina striker has agreed personal terms in principle on a four-year contract at Arsenal and is poised to become their marquee signing of the summer.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by David Hytner, for The Guardian on Friday 21st June 2013 17.46 Europe/London

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


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