What happened next? Mauricio Pochettino’s cult Paris Saint-Germain side of 2001/02
Paris Saint-Germain is a club associated with glitz and glamour these days thanks to their lavishly assembled squad of world-class talent.
It’s only over the decade that France’s capital club has enjoyed sustained success, though, which has arrived courtesy of their takeover by the Qatar Sports Investment group — a move that resulted in PSG immediately becoming one of the world’s richest clubs.
They have claimed the Ligue 1 title in all but one of the last eight seasons yet, prior to their first success in 2012/13, they had only tasted French top-flight glory twice since their inception in 1970.
Despite their lack of domestic title success pre-takeover, PSG still had a good pedigree in the game thanks to their exploits in cup competitions, most notably winning the Uefa Cup Winners Cup in 1996.
And while they have not always been one of the elite clubs on the continent, their location in one of the most iconic cities in the world and their impressive Parc des Princes stadium has always made them an attractive proposition for footballers.
However, while their squad now boasts immense talent all over the pitch, in bygone years, their team has often been a muddled collection of gifted technicians and career journeymen, an unpredictable blend that excited fans yet failed to yield much on-pitch success.
Their squad in the 2001/02 season is a prime example of this as Luis Fernandez’s rabble of household names and misfits thrilled, yet ultimately underachieved by finishing fourth in Ligue 1 and crashing out of the Uefa Cup prematurely.
Here is what happened next to PSG’s players from the 2001/02 season.
Career path: Nice, Metz, PSG, Rangers, Nice
PSG appearances: 196
Letizi started and ended his career with Nice but the best years of his career were spent with PSG, whom he represented with some distinction between 2000-06.
A French international with four caps, Letizi won the French Cup twice while wearing PSG’s colours before moving to Glasgow to sign for Rangers in 2006, where he lasted just six months.
Career path: SC Caen, PSG, Bolton Wanderers (loan), Hull City, Odense BK, Brest, Chennaiyin FC, AEL Limassol, Chennaiyin FC, East Bengal FC, Chennaiyin FC
PSG appearances: 247
Mendy joined PSG in 2000 and enjoyed a breakthrough campaign the following season, alternating with Cristobal in the right-back slot.
He was deemed slightly too raw to start regularly, however, which led to a loan move to Bolton in 2002, but following an impressive season at the Reebok stadium, he regained his place in the PSG side over the next five years.
Career path: Barcelona, Real Oviedo (loan), Logrones, Barcelona, Real Oviedo, Espanyol, PSG
PSG appearances: 83
A product of Barcelona’s La Masia academy and a six-time Spain international, Cristobal Parralo joined PSG ahead of the 2001/02 season and retired the following year.
He embarked on a managerial career after hanging up his boots and was most recently in charge of Racing Santander.
Career path: Newell’s Old Boys, Espanyol, PSG, Bordeaux, Espanyol
PSG appearances: 95
Part of Marcelo Bielsa’s Newell’s Old Boys team that surprisingly won the Argentine Primera Division in the early 90s, Pochettino went on to achieve legendary status at Espanyol before joining PSG in January 2001.
He slotted seamlessly into the club’s defence, becoming a mainstay of the side and securing a place in Argentina’s 2002 World Cup squad off the back of his performances in Ligue 1. After a brief stint at PSG’s Ligue 1 rivals Bordeaux, Pochettino returned to Espanyol, where he retired from playing.
Since then, Pochettino has become an extremely highly-rated manager thanks to successful spells in charge of Espanyol as well as Southampton. Most recently, he turned Tottenham Hotspur into Champions League runners-up before his dismissal from the north London club in November 2019.
𝗠𝗔𝗨𝗥𝗜𝗖𝗜𝗢 𝗣𝗢𝗖𝗛𝗘𝗧𝗧𝗜𝗡𝗢 ❤️💙 𝗣𝗦𝗚
2️⃣0️⃣0️⃣1️⃣ 2️⃣0️⃣2️⃣1️⃣ pic.twitter.com/lPZI9H3sNw
— Paris Saint-Germain (@PSG_espanol) January 2, 2021
After over a year-long sabattical, Pochettino is now back in Paris. This time as head coach, having replaced Thomas Tuchel.
Career path: RC Lens, Barcelona, PSG, Marseille Levante
PSG appearances: 166
A graduate of RC Lens’ esteemed academy, Dehu earned a move to Barcelona in 1999 but failed to secure a starting place in the side, leading to his return to France to sign for PSG.
He enjoyed an excellent four-year spell with the club and also represented their fierce rivals Marseille prior to retiring in Spain with Levante.
Career path: Newell’s Old Boys, Real Valladolid, Sporting CP (loan), PSG, Manchester United, Real Madrid, Marseille, Roma, Newell’s Old Boys
PSG appearances: 132
Similarly to Pochettino, Heinze started his career with Newell’s Old Boys and enjoyed a relatively brief, yet successful, spell with PSG via a stint playing in Spain.
It was with PSG that Heinze’s reputation began to blossom as he earned his international debut for Argentina while playing for the club and a transfer to Manchester United.
Position: Central midfielder
Career path: Barcelona B, PSG, Rangers, Real Sociedad, Everton, Arsenal
PSG appearances: 53
Arteta started his career at Barcelona but struggled to break into the first-team paving the way for an 18-month loan move to PSG in December 2001.
He initially found it difficult to break into the first-team but an exceptional 2001/02 season resulted in Rangers paying Barcelona £6m to sign him that summer.
During his two years in Glasgow, Arteta lifted the Scottish Premiership and League Cup before establishing himself south of the border with Everton and Arsenal via a short-lived stint at Real Sociedad.
Now, he’s in charge of Arsenal having been part of Pep Guardiola’s backroom staff at Manchester City.
Position: Attacking midfielder
Career path: Benfica, Alverca (loan), Atletico Madrid, PSG, Porto, Academica (loan), Braga, Belenenses, Trofense, Salamanca, Vitoria Setubal, Estoril
PSG appearances: 74
Once tipped to become a world-class player and a star of Portugal’s exciting generation at the turn of the century, Hugo Leal never quite lived up to expectations, spending the final years of his career bouncing around mid-table Portuguese clubs.
He was part of the Atletico Madrid squad that was inexplicably relegated in 2000 and moved to PSG soon after, winning the Coupe de la Ligue in 2004.
Position: Attacking midfielder
Career path: Borussia Neunkirchen, Eintracht Frankfurt, Fenerbahce, PSG, Bolton Wanderers, Qatar SC, Hull City
PSG appearances: 112
PSG made a huge statement of intent when they splashed out £14m to sign Okocha shortly after he had impressed for Nigeria at the 1998 World Cup, making him the most expensive African footballer of all-time.
Blessed with exceptional natural ability, Okocha spent four years in Paris but despite showing flashes of his genius he perhaps didn’t have the impact expected of him upon his arrival.
Following the expiration of his contract, Okocha moved to Bolton in 2002. There he became a club legend and one of the Premier League’s great entertainers.
Position: Attacking midfield
Career path: Gremio, PSG, Barcelona, Milan, Flamengo, Atletico Mineiro, Queretaro, Fluminense
PSG appearances: 76
Paris was the first European stop in Ronaldinho’s career as he joined them after bursting onto the scene with Gremio as well as the Brazilian national team as a teenager.
Although he made a slow start at PSG, Ronaldinho eventually became a resounding success, scoring 25 goals in 76 matches for the club across two seasons.
He became a world champion while contracted to PSG, playing a key role as Brazil lifted the 2002 World Cup and his form the following season convinced Barcelona to sign him.
Ronaldinho played a key role in re-establishing Barcelona as a major force domestically and continentally by winning two La Liga titles and a Champions League while he also won the Ballon d’Or in 2005. He finally retired from playing in early 2018 and things have become, well, interesting for him since then.
Career path: PSG, Arsenal, Real Madrid, PSG, Liverpool (loan), Manchester City, Fenerbahce, Bolton Wanderers, Chelsea, Shanghai Shenhua, Juventus, West Brom, Mumbai City
PSG appearances: 69
Anelka progressed through the PSG academy, making ten competitive appearances as a 17-year-old and his immense promise was spotted by Arsene Wenger, who brought him to north London in 1997.
After establishing himself as one of the world’s brightest young attacking talents at Arsenal, Anelka earned a move to Real Madrid but after falling out of favour at the Bernabeu, he returned to his first club.
Again, Anelka failed to provide the spark and goals expected of him and he was loaned out to Liverpool midway through the 2001/02 season before leaving permanently for Manchester City. Anelka spent a large part of his career in England, representing Bolton, Chelsea and West Brom.
Career path: Flamengo, Guarani, Goias, Saint-Etienne, PSG, Rubin Kazan, Atletico Paranaense (loan), Sao Paulo, Al-Rayyan, Vasco Da Gama, Ceara, Brasiliense, Brusque, CRB, Gama.
PSG appearances: 78
Aloisio was a bit of a journeyman and only retired a few years back, at the age of 42. His most notable time in football was spent at PSG between 2001-03 as he scored 14 goals in over 50 matches.
Upon leaving PSG, Aloisio’s career took him to Russia and Qatar as well as across the whole of Brazil by the looks of things.