‘Settled’ Neymar leads the way in big week for PSG
Neymar played a leading part in the unprecedented anti-racism protest which saw Paris Saint-Germain and Istanbul Basaksehir players leave the field in their Champions League match this week, and the Brazilian has also been living up to his status as the world’s most expensive player in recent weeks.
The former Barcelona superstar’s hat-trick in PSG’s 5-1 win over the Turks when the game restarted a day later included two goals that were simply out of this world.
Neymar had previously scored the winner against RB Leipzig and a brace in the 3-1 victory at Manchester United and his goals allowed the French champions to finish top of an awkward Champions League group.
He explained the decision to walk off in protest at the alleged use of a racist term by one of the Romanian match officials was something that “needed to be done to see if the world can change a little”. The images of him kneeling, with a clenched fist raised, in support of the Black Lives Matter movement were powerful.
PSG supporters would also have been encouraged to hear the 28-year-old stress he is happy in Paris, a week after creating headlines by admitting he wanted to be on the same team as Lionel Messi next season.
“I am very happy here in Paris, at the club, with my teammates, so the idea of leaving is not going through my head, but people need things to talk about,” he told broadcaster RMC Sport.
“I am really happy and settled so let’s see what happens in the future.”
Like Kylian Mbappe — who recently scored his 100th PSG goal — Neymar’s contract runs until 2022 but PSG are hopeful the duo will sign new terms.
“We have started talking. It is all confidential but we are confident, both of them want to stay,” said PSG president Nasser al-Khelaifi.
Mbappe and Neymar, who has scored or set up 65 goals in 65 Champions League matches, will lead PSG into a top-of-the-table Ligue 1 clash at home to in-form Lyon on Sunday.
The defending champions are top but the five teams below them are all within five points, with Lyon two points behind the leaders.
Player to watch: Angel di Maria
Forget Neymar and Mbappe, Di Maria was PSG’s best player in the last, curtailed French season. In fact, he has probably been their standout performer since the two most expensive signings in history arrived in August 2017.
However, the Argentine has lost his place in recent weeks. His only start in PSG’s last four games came when PSG fielded a second-string XI at Montpellier. In the win at Manchester United not only did he not come on, but he was also at one stage stripped for action only to be sent back to his seat.
Out of contract at the end of this season — a situation that has put the 32-year-old’s future in the spotlight — Di Maria will hope for a recall against Lyon.
5 – Marseille has won their last five Ligue 1 games. Four points behind leaders PSG, they are on course to top the table if they win their two games in hand, but they face a tough test against Monaco on Saturday.
13 – After finishing 13th last season, Nantes this week parted company with coach Christian Gourcuff with the Canaries taking just 13 points from their first 13 games in this campaign. The eight-time French champions became the fourth club to change coach this season. One of the others, bottom side Dijon, are their opponents this weekend.
10 – Lyon is unbeaten in 10 games as they search for a first win at the Parc des Princes since 2007.
Fixtures (Kick-offs GMT)
Saint-Etienne v Angers (2000)
Marseille v Monaco (1600), Lens v Montpellier (2000)
Nice v Rennes (1200), Brest v Reims, Lorient v Nimes, Nantes v Dijon, Strasbourg v Metz (all 1400), Lille v Bordeaux (1600), Paris Saint-Germain v Lyon (2000)