EXCLUSIVE: Former Brazil star Rai on why he believes PSG are disconnected from their fans

EXCLUSIVE: Former Brazil star Rai on why he believes PSG are disconnected from their fans
Rai pictured at Paris FC's stadium
Rai pictured at Paris FC's stadium
In an exclusive interview with Flashscore, the former player Rai (58), of the greatest icons in Paris Saint-Germain history, explained why the club is in crisis with the fans and the current team. The French title may be on the horizon but the season has been frustrating.

Rai spoke to Flashscore from the French capital, where he works as an ambassador and shareholder partner of Paris FC - the club that gave rise to PSG along with the defunct Stade Saint-Germain. The team is now in the second division.

"I have brought investors and sponsors for us to move up to Ligue 1 in the coming seasons," said the star, who is also one of the directors of the Gol de Letra Foundation and holds a master's degree in public policy.

Rai with Ronaldo and Cafu

Formed in the Botafogo-SP youth team, Rai was a key player for PSG between 1993 and 1998. In 217 matches for the French team, he scored 74 goals and won 7 trophies.

In 2020, Rai was elected in a poll promoted by Paris Saint-Germain as the greatest player in the history of the club.

The former number 10 was also a four-time world champion with the Brazilian national team and is a legend in Sao Paulo, the team where he became intercontinental champion in 1992.

Check out the first part of the interview with Rai below:

Do you see similarities between your PSG and today's PSG? Or is it a completely different universe?

Rai: "Not only Paris Saint-Germain, but the world of football is completely different. Nowadays clubs have huge financial potential, you can have several players of the Brazilian national team in the same team. At that time, as much as the fans loved the team, we had four or five players on national teams.

"Today, depending on the team, you have 15 national team players. You can't make many comparisons either because the team weighed more heavily because you didn't have so many players who could make a difference. The strength of the collective was much more important."

"When I arrived at PSG, the challenge was to put the team at the top European level, so that was an achievement, and the fans grew with us. We reached a Champions League semi-final that the club has only just managed to repeat in the Qatari era.

"For our goals, we got very far and the fans bought into it. And it was a team that really bought into this idea of being together, of having collective strength. So it's difficult to compare, but in this Qatari era, let's say there were some very good seasons - better than the current one, But in this one, we can't say the team had a collective game, or a collective evolution, even though we were French champions.

"So, if we compare this season with my time at the club, you could say we've had better regularity and a more interesting collective cohesion."

Why do you think the current team has not been together consistently under either Pochettino or Galtier?

"There have been a lot of changes and some problems with group cohesion. There was a very difficult, drawn-out contract renewal process for Mbappe, I think that left some after-effects. And (director of football) Leonardo left, players arrived, there was a change of coach... So there were a series of changes that made it difficult for the whole group to bond."

Rai led the French team to its first Champions League semi-final

Are the fans more spoilt because now the rich clubs have 15 national team players? How do you see this overly critical reaction from PSG fans?

"I think there was a miscommunication at the beginning of the project, which was to promise the Champions League title - or, if they didn't promise it, it created that expectation. And when you create the expectation that that alone represents success, you have a sense of failure every season.

"That's one thing that has been undermining that fan-club relationship because anything less than the Champions League, you look for faults and blame. I think there's that side to it, but I think when you go to the extreme of going (protesting) to a player's house, that's absurd anywhere in the world and a lack of respect.

"I think there were also many off-field problems that created a little bit of a grudge with the fans, some stories and circumstances that accumulate and that, in a moment of crisis, manifest themselves.

"I wouldn't say that the fans got spoilt, but this expectation of Champions League and high investments with a lack of performance - not result, but performance - was undermining the relationship. But it's nothing that won't come back, that's football passion - it's extreme love, then extreme rebellion."

Do the players feel that extreme rebellion? Do you think some at PSG felt it?

"Yes, for sure some relationships will be marked. It's natural in a season to have moments of crisis, at every club, but how to manage that crisis... For me, football is the art of crisis management. It's more difficult sometimes than building a team because you're going to have a crisis, but if you manage these moments badly, you undermine any kind of evolution."

Can that truckload of money from Qatar do more harm than good to the club?

"There are all sorts of examples, aren't there? Examples that went right and wrong. I think money creates an obligation to play well, but it's not only money that solves things. So, in this relationship with the fans, sometimes it can get in the way because it raises expectations because investment generates expectations."

Rai beat Ronaldinho in the voting for PSG's greatest player

Do you think Mourinho could be a solution for the team?

(Laughs) "I am on another project, at Paris FC, and you can only have the legitimacy to give this kind of opinion when you are inside."

Will Kylian Mbappe become the greatest player in PSG's history?

"He is on his way to becoming one of the greatest stars in the history of football, and of the club consequently. In the (French) national team he already came close to winning the World Cup twice at the age of 23. He has a long career ahead of him, but his numbers so far are enough to make him one of the greatest players in the history of France, along with Zidane, Platini... from that level upwards."


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