Speaking exclusively to Le Parisien for the first time since his arrival in Paris, PSG Sporting Director Antero Henrique discussed the first 6 months in the job, Neymar, Cavani, Unai Emery and much more.
We know very little about you. Can you briefly summarise your career path?
My business card is for my profession, not for my personality. That is why I speak very little to the media. The general public just needs to understand my ideas and objectives. My job, is organising the sporting department and taking charge of the constitution of the teams. The transfer window is only part of the iceberg, but below that, there is a lot more to it.
What made you decide to come to Paris?
The president Nasser Al-Khelaïfi is passionate for the club. One could even say he loves the club. And he has passed his passion for it onto me! Now, it is my job is to spread this passion.
One of your fields of expertise is to develop recruitment. Is this useful for a club that buys the best players?
Buying players is easier. You can buy coffee, but the ultimate pleasure, is to make it yourself. We need the best to be with us by the age of 8 or 9 years old. We want them to join PSG’s youth academy and experience our education – similarly to Harvard or Oxford.
What does Luis Fernandez do?
Whether it is for the first team, the women’s team or the youth academy, we need a role model inside the club. Maxwell for the first team, Bruno Cheyrou for the women’s team, and Luis Fernandez for the youth academy. Luis is an example, as is Maxwell who will become a great executive.
What is your strategy to help the women’s team finally overtake Lyon’s?
France will organise the World Cup in two years. We want as many players in that competition as possible. The project will be slightly different. We want as many female French players as possible. We have many young talents. If we work with the best young female players in France, we will improve. Nasser asked me to lend special attention to the women’s team. We already have a top team. The problem is that, in France, we have the two best teams in the world… Which is fantastic for France.
What do you make of Neymar’s first four months in Paris?
He has simply confirmed that he is an exceptional player, as well as an awesome one. He plays for the team, with humility, not for himself, and has managed to gel into the team. For me, that is his most important quality. But obviously, one of the world’s best players will be special. It is similar to Mbappé – he is a special player with endless potential. He is also well surrounded by his family.
What do you think about Edinson Cavani?
Goalscorers are often those who are put forward in the media. And Cavani, simply put, is the best goalscorer in the world. But the media coverage does not match his importance in the world of football because it only shows what he does on the pitch. We never see the rest. But he surely prefers this.
Adrien Rabiot was the most used player during this first half of the season. Did you expect him to perform this well?
Rabiot is a top, top, top player…. Really a great player. Plus, he is from the PSG academy. Incidentally, it is great to have three regular starters in our ranks from the academy in: Alphonse Areola, Presnel Kimpembe and Adrien Rabiot, as well as Christopher Nkunku. Look at the other big teams’ squads around the world. It is quite rare.
How are Adrien Rabiot and Marco Verratti’s contract negotiations coming along?
There has not been any particular progress with Adrien, but we are not worried about that. It is not a concern for us. For Marco, it would be false to claim that a contract extension has been agreed. He still has three and half years left on his contract.
The Spanish media deem Unai Emery to be PSG’s weak point…
It is only the Spanish who say that… But no president or player has said that Unai Emery is not a great coach. No one. Everyone actually speaks very positively of him. Everyone except journalists. But being criticised is part of being a coach. Unai is one of the best coaches in the world. As the president said in the beginning of the season, we are 200% behind him. 200%! We have no doubt in his ability and he has our full trust.
But if PSG do not reach the Champions League semifinals, his contract will be up in June…
I can assure you that his contract is not a problem. For him, for me, or for PSG. Everyone is rather calm on that matter.
Do you know who PSG’s coach will be next season?
We are in mid-December, so the time to talk about this has not come.
What do you think of his way of managing the penalty dilemma between Cavani and Neymar?
There was a lot of noise over nothing. It was not a big problem. From then onwards, the coach decides who takes penalties. Similarly, to corners and free kicks.
What is your stance on the investigation launched in early September in regards to PSG?
We are relaxed. We understand our responsibility and the limitations imposed by UEFA. This summer, we managed two exceptional financial operations. Neymar and Mbappé agreed to join. It was a unique opportunity. What were we meant to do in this case? We decided to do it, conclude the transfers and to adapt ourselves afterwards.
To be within the regulations of financial fair play, how many players do PSG need to sell before June 30th?
We know what we have to do. But I will never talk about transfers before the transfer window begins. What I can tell you, is that PSG has players who are among the best in their positions in its ranks. So obviously, the market will be in our favor.
Can you guarantee that PSG will not be suspended from next season’s Champions League?
It is not because one drives at 140km/hr that you end up in prison. We understand our responsibility and are aware of the situation.
How do you explain UEFA’s investigation?
I think that in this matter, the Spanish put a lot of pressure. La Liga’s president criticised the transfer of Neymar. Well all right then – but they should also explain how they bought Neymar in 2013! How much did the club really pay for Neymar? With PSG, we have done things in a completely legal manner, by matching the release clause.
How do you deem the first half of the season to have gone?
For now, I am very happy. We are leading the league by nine points, finished first in our Champions League group, and beat the record for goals scored in the group stage. That is magnificent, isn’t it?
How do you see the the round of 16 match against Real Madrid?
This draw was a bad thing, For us, but also for Real. But we will be at the center of the football world. And that is important. The best will qualify. Well it should… Unless the refereeing is the difference maker like against Real Madrid-Bayern Munich. There are also certain anomalies like with the away leg between PSG and Barcelona.
Real Madrid president, Florentino Perez, stated that Neymar would have more of a chance to win the Ballon d’Or if he played for Real…
To speak about the player of another club the day that Ronaldo has won his fifth Ballon d’Or is not very nice for his player…
Is the fact that the second leg will take place in the Parc des Princes a positive factor?
The atmosphere at the Parc Des Princes and the supporters ambitions are very important elements. I really appreciate the atmosphere in the Parc. Football is not only a spectacle. You also need passion, energy. The support from your fans is also magnificent. The players and staff really respect that.