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Football: Combustible Kombouare keeps PSG on their toes

Paris — His side may be flying high in the French top flight and fighting for glory in both the French Cup and the Europa League, but Paris Saint-Germain coach Antoine Kombouare remains difficult to please.

L’Equipe sport daily claimed the 47-year-old lost his temper with goalkeeper Apoula Edel after PSG’s 2-1 victory at home to Toulouse on 27 February.

Edel was involved in a mix-up with centre-back Sylvain Armand that led to Franck Tabanou pulling a goal back for the visitors in the 62nd minute and Kombouare was reportedly still fuming at the final whistle.

L’Equipe alleged that Kombouare criticised Edel for the error as the two men made their way towards the home changing room.

When Edel refused to accept responsibility and walked away, Kombouare reportedly told him: “Shut your face! Come here and see!”

Witnesses told L’Equipe that Kombouare was “beside himself” and had to be calmed by members of the PSG back-room staff.

Kombouare later admitted that there had been a “slightly heated discussion” and said he had had to “put Edel in his place”.

It is thought likely Edel will lose his first-choice status at the end of the season, with Nice’s David Ospina touted as a potential replacement, but he is not the first player to have felt Kombouare’s wrath this term.

Beninese attacking midfielder Stephane Sessegnon, a close friend of Edel’s, left PSG for Sunderland in January after claiming that his relationship with Kombouare had broken down irretrievably.

Having lost his place in the starting XI to veteran Frenchman Ludovic Giuly, Sessegnon informed Kombouare of his desire to leave and said he was startled by the coach’s response.

“I don’t think that a coach should call one of his players a ‘fucker’ or a ‘shit player’, like what happened to me,” said Sessegnon.

Kombouare responded by declaring that the player had been poorly advised and said he intended to keep him at the club, but Sessegnon’s desperation to leave suggested the damage had already been done.

Born on the south-west Pacific island of New Caledonia, Kombouare established a reputation as a rugged centre-back in a 15-year playing career with Nantes, PSG, Swiss side FC Sion and Scottish club Aberdeen.

Having earned his coaching spurs in charge of PSG’s reserves, he spent a little over a year at Strasbourg before moving to Valenciennes, whom he led to the Ligue 2 title in 2006 in his first season in charge.

At Valenciennes his outbursts at referees frequently landed him in hot water with the football authorities but he succeeded in establishing VA in the elite before returning to the Parc des Princes in 2009.

Last season’s 13th-place finish was a disappointment but Kombouare rescued the season by guiding PSG to victory over Monaco in the French Cup final.

The current campaign threatens to be the most successful in the under-achieving club’s recent history.

With 13 league games to go, fourth-place PSG trail leaders Lille by just two points and will meet Portuguese giants Benfica in the Europa League last 16.

Their defence of the French Cup, meanwhile, has taken them as far as a quarter-final meeting with second-tier Le Mans.

An attacking 4-4-2 with wingers on both flanks is Kombouare’s preferred playing system but he has shown himself open to innovation by experimenting with a 4-2-3-1 in which Mathieu Bodmer operates as a conventional playmaker.

His man-management style, however, remains unyielding, despite a promise at the dawn of the season to adjust his approach.

“I’ll try to be more attentive in my discussions with my players, be closer to them and exchange ideas more,” he said in August.

Sessegnon and Edel, to name but two, can testify that an exchange of ideas with Kombouare is just as daunting an experience as it has ever been.

Tom Williams / AFP / Expatica