Won 16, drawn two and lost none. Goals for 71, goals against 10. Those are the extraordinary numbers of Paris Saint-Germain this season, yet such an incredible run may not be enough to save the job of Unai Emery.
Such is the power that Neymar commands at the Parc des Princes, the Spaniards’ inability to please the world’s most expensive player could cost him his job.
Though the former Sevilla boss strains to express that relations between the pair are cordial, he struggles to disguise a different tale.
“For me, what happens on the field is the most important thing. All that goes on outside is not the most important. What is important is what happens on the pitch,” Emery protested before last weekend’s 4-1 win over Nantes.
Neymar’s busy social life continues to be a source of strife for the club and stories for the media, and before Wednesday’s Champions League clash with Celtic, he was forced to launch another somewhat unconvincing defence of the player.
“Out of work, football, he can enjoy his friends,” the coach said. “In training he is very good. He is young, so he also needs to go out and be with them, but he remains responsible.”
Nevertheless, it is clearly a source of concern for the club.
Already the coach has been forced to alter his sessions to placate the summer arrival, with video analysis notably cut short due to the distaste of the 25-year-old for them.
Emery’s job may not be in any immediate threat while results are still strong, but the pressure will ratchet up in the second half of the campaign, most notably when the Champions League returns from its hibernation.
PSG have notably stumbled before the semi-final stage on a persistent basis since QSI started pouring millions of euro into the club in 2011, and last season’s exit at the hands of Barcelona in the first knockout round was a particularly bloody nose for a club with ambitions to reach the pinnacle.
Any failure to reach the last four will spell the end for Emery.
Jose Mourinho is one of those men targeted by the powers that be in Paris. He is not entirely satisfied with life at Manchester United, in part due to a clash of personalities with chairman Ed Woodward, and has previously indicated that he does not see himself at Old Trafford for the long haul.
He would carry with him the kind of character necessary to tame Neymar, plus long experience of handling the world’s greatest players, having coached the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Cristiano Ronaldo in a storied managerial career that has seen him claim Champions League crowns with Porto and Inter, plus a raft of trophies elsewhere.
Massimiliano Allegri is another who is of interest to the Parisian side currently. He took Juventus to the Champions League final last term, only to be undone by Real Madrid, yet he is a figure who carries a great deal of tactical nous that it is believed that Emery is lacking.
Indeed, the 50-year-old Italian has spent close to a decade in charge of giant clubs in Serie A, having spent four years at AC Milan before taking over at Juve, where there is a sense that a cycle could be drawing to a close.