Aventuras Américas | Part 79 | PSG #3: Robinho Lazaró Reaches 2,000 Games In Management

Having moved into his 80s, Robinho Lazaró was as passionate about football as ever. And one thing that maintained that passion was seeing young players excel at the highest level. His young Paris Saint-Germain side delivered exactly that as they repaid his faith by lifting the French cup in 2063.

Lazaró set about maintaining that faith and strengthening PSG in a bid to close the gap on Lille, Lyon and Rennes in the summer of 2064. That began with the club’s board clearing some of its £291 million debt due to “good financial performance in recent times ” – which Lazaró accounted to his prudent sales of over-earning old players.

He continued in that vein by selling more underperforming oldies as Lulinha joined Monterrey for a huge £28 million and Sócrates joined Porto at the end of his contract. That boosted the bank balance to over £100 million and gave Lazaró a £65 million transfer kitty to work with.

The first arrival kept things local, bringing in 17-year-old right-back Goncalo Alonso for £7.5 million from Nice. Then six players arrived on 1 July, of which the pick may be wonderkid winger Moise Fofana, who joined on a free from Caen. Equally exciting could be midfielder Calebe, who signed for £11.5 million from Santos, and strikers Valentín Oriol and Luismi Benitez, who joined for £4 million and £4.5 million from Atlético. They also snapped up a promising centre-back in Mauro Mancini for £1 million from Torino and loaned in another exciting striker option in Arsenal’s Kevin Hinton.

A good sign of Lazaró’s massive overhaul of PSG is the club now has an average of just 20.0. The first team features just two players over the age of 24 and 30-year-old winger Ronaldo Cueto is the oldest player at the club followed by 28-year-old Jan Mares.

Lazaró decided to stick with the unconventional 4-3-3 meets 4-4-2 approach that utilises a left-winger and a holding midfielder. While the central midfielder and deep-lying forward have instructions to try and fill the gap on the right.

And the approach looked pretty good as an injury-time goal by Emre Ayyildiz downed French champions Lille 1-0 to lift the Trophée des Champions for a record 40th time.

How will Lazaró’s young charges fare?

The French media didn’t fancy PSG’s chances, predicting them to finish fifth at 25/1 to win Ligue 1, behind Lyon (5/4), Lille (15/8), Rennes (11/1) and Marseille (18/1).

PSG began their effort to prove the media wrong at Reims. And they did so in style, winning 4-1 with a Juan Ruiz brace after goals by Mares and centre-back Christophe Majerus. They backed that up with a 3-1 win at home to Nice with Mares and Ruiz both scoring again after Cueto’s opener before a solid point at Marseille, who nicked an equaliser in the 86th minute. Ruiz continued his good start with a brace to defeat Caen 2-0, which saw him win the August player of the month.

That teed up an early tricky fixture as PSG travelled to Lyon, who they hadn’t beaten in three years and only beaten once in eight meetings and twice in the last 16 meetings going back seven years! But they bucked that trend and planted themselves firmly in the title race as Cueto scored early on before a tremendous defensive effort led by Jaílson Marcelino, who made 12 saves to repel Lyon and send PSG top of Ligue 1 for the first time under Lazaró’s leadership.

They kicked on from there to beat Lorient 3-0 then Auxerre 4-1 away led by Fofana’s first two goals for the club and an Emre assist hat-trick. And they had their defence to thank again as Ruiz scored early to down champions Lille 1-0 at home. But the unbeaten start ended with a 1-0 defeat at Lens.

They got on track by easing past Strasbourg 2-0 then hammering Saint-Étienne 5-0 led by an Emre brace, which ended his 10-game scoring drought. And he bagged two more to win 3-2 at Monaco, who were promoted from Ligue 2 last season. A draw at home to Billy Gilmour’s Rennes saw Lyon climb to the top of the pile heading into the winter break.

But PSG were very much in the title race, trailing Lyon by one point with only one defeat. Ruiz is the top scorer with 13 goals and Emre has the most assists (9) and second-highest average rating (7.72). Their efforts were rewarded as Ruiz won FIFA Best U21 Men’s Player and Emre won European Golden Boy.

Champions League progression

PSG got a group alongside Bayern, Olympiakos and Sion. They began with the toughest game away to Bayern and performed well to only lose 2-1 but got on the board as Ruiz scored the only goal at home to Olympiakos. Then a proud moment for the manager saw Lazaró reach the incredible mark of 2,000 matches as a Football Manager as PSG welcomed Sion to Paris. His side celebrated the landmark by hammering the Swiss side 5-0 led by a hat-trick from midfielder Jozef Danko and a Ruiz brace.

PSG also won 2-0 in Switzerland, which sent them top as Olympiakos drew with Bayern in Germany and beat them at home. A heavily rotated side won 3-0 in Greece, including exciting homegrown 17-year-old centre-back Marco Tonazzini scoring his first senior goal. That sealed qualification but PSG could knock Bayern out with the right results. They did their part, earning a 1-1 draw with the Germans, only for Olympiakos to lose in Switzerland!

Despite winning their group, PSG got a tough first knockout round tie against Lazaró’s former club AC Milan. The first leg saw Lazaró return to San Siro for the first time since standing down in 2062. But his former fans wouldn’t have been happy as his new side came away with an unlikely 2-1 win thanks to Calebe and Majerus scoring either side of Iliya Kolev, who’s still the best player in the world. And they were even better at home, thumping the Italians 4-1 led by a brace from former Milan man Mares.

Next up was a strong Chelsea side, who won 3-0 in Paris. But that was nothing compared to the second leg as Lazaró left the first team in Paris and the replacements were humiliated in a club record 8-0 defeat!!

Maintaining a title challenge

PSG’s strong start to the season saw Lazaró offered an interview then the vacant managerial role at Atlético. But he had unfinished business in France.

PSG began 2065 at home to Toulouse and strolled to a 3-0 win as Calebe scored his first two goals for the club. Centre-back Driss Djorkaeff followed suit with two goals in a 3-1 win at Nice before Calebe and Emre earned a 2-1 Classico Derby win over Marseille.

That teed up a massive game at home to Lyon, who still led by one point, in mid-February. Lyon started brightly, having two good chances before making their pressure pay after six minutes. But PSG responded with two excellent moves finished off by Cueto and Ruiz to move 2-1 ahead after 15 minutes. Lyon had a player sent off just before the break, which effectively killed the game off and Lyon offered nothing after the break. So PSG snuck back to the top of Ligue 1.

The excellent form continued, including a Ruiz hat-trick leading a 4-0 thumping of Auxerre, which opened a four-point gap. But a surprise defeat at Montpellier closed it to just one with 10 games remaining.

Thrilling Ligue 1 title race

The run-in began with a tricky trip to champions Lille, where PSG nicked a 1-1 draw while Lyon drew 0-0 at Saint-Étienne. But they got back on track with a 2-0 win over Lens before a 0-0 at Strasbourg. But Lyon lost 4-0 at Rennes, who moved level on points with Lyon to make it a three-way title battle. PSG gained an advantage as they thumped Clermont Foot 5-2 while both their rivals drew but immediately threw it away by drawing 0-0 at Saint-Étienne.

The title race had technically become a five-way battle with five games remaining. PSG were two points clear of Rennes and Lyon with Lille and Brest a further five and six points back. PSG had marginally the easiest run-in, but it could swing on their trip to Rennes on 3 May.

Gameweek 30 – Monaco (17th, away): Relegation-threatened Monaco took a shock lead with their first shot on 21 minutes. Emre equalised four minutes later but, despite dominating PSG couldn’t find a second. That was until Cueto popped up with a delicious strike in the 89th minute before Benitez scored his first PSG goal in injury-time to earn a comfortable-sounding 3-1 win. Rennes won 1-0 at Montpellier, Lyon beat Reims 3-1 and Brest won 6-3 at Auxerre.

Gameweek 31 – Rennes (3rd, away): PSG hadn’t won a league game against Rennes in four years, so this was a worrying fixture. PSG lost Majerus to injury at Monaco but they had Rennes centre-back Andrade to thank for gifting them an opener on 32 minutes. Cueto added a second four minutes and they defended for their lives, only conceding one of Rennes’ 16 shots. And that could easily be the title decider as Lyon lost 2-0 at Nice to move PSG five points clear with three to play.

Gameweek 32 – Brest (4th, home): Another tough test followed as Brest, who were hunting Champions League qualification, were up next. But they were no match for PSG’s awesome attack as Ruiz bagged a second-half hat-trick after Mares’ opener to seal a 4-1 victory. Lyon beat Marseille 2-0 but Rennes lost at Lens, and the title was all-but PSG’s.

Gameweek 33- Toulouse (18th, away): PSG’s task couldn’t be much easier, they just needed to beat relegated Toulouse – who had nine points – to claim the Ligue 1 title. And they did so with some style as Ruiz bagged another hat-trick alongside Cueto, Mares and Danko goals in a 6-0 hammering.

Paris Saint-Germain were Champions of France for the first time in 15 years!!

PSG celebrated the title by beating Reims 3-0 at home on the final day, which was likely to be Lazaró’s final-ever match in Europe. They finished five points ahead of Lyon and 11 clear of Rennes. Ruiz was the league’s top scorer with 27 in 33 and Emre got the most assists (15), most player of the match awards (9) and second-best average rating (7.73).

Season Review

Lazaró’s decision to focus on youth well and truly paid off for PSG, ending their 15-year wait for a Ligue 1 title. But for Lazaró, this completed the quintet of titles in Germany, Spain, Portugal, Italy and France, as well as Europa League and Champions League successes, taking him to 32 league titles and 29 cup wins.

PSG’s main man was probably Ruiz, who’s progressed superbly this season and ended with 32 goals and 10 assists in 44 games. Pushing him close was strike partner Emre, who scored 18 and led the way with 18 assists to win fans’ player and young player of the season, and Cueto, who got 14 goals and 14 assists. While Mares impressed with 10 goals and nine assists, Danko scored five and got 10 assists and Djorkaeff scored seven and had the second-best average rating at the club of 7.52.

What’s next for Robinho Lazaró?

Having completed his mission of winning all the major European leagues, Lazaró felt was time for a change. With his PSG contract expiring in the summer of 2065 and having reached the age of 81, he decided to leave Europe to finish this adventure where it all began.

So on 1 June 2065, Lazaró resigned from PSG, turned off all the European leagues, and re-enabled all the leagues across North and South America. Robinho Lazaró was heading back to the Américas!

Join us next time to discover where Robinho Lazaró’s job hunt takes him in North and South America.

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