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First, by a lavish goal. In a position almost similar, although slightly more axial, to that of a certain Barcelona – PSG in March 2017, the Brazilian placed his ball on the ground at 25 meters and gained momentum. A few seconds later, the ball lodged in the left corner of Alban Lafont’s goal. Neymar scored from a free kick, his first since 47 attempts and a December 2019 meeting against Montpellier.
This is the 8th direct free kick converted in the PSG jersey for the Brazilian number 10. But against Nantes, Neymar was not content to shine in this very specific exercise. He also scored twice by converting a penalty which left Lafont flabbergasted, on his line, and offered an almost decisive pass to Lionel Messi, extended by Pablo Chirivella, on the first Parisian goal.
And all that without Mbappé…
Overall, the impression left is salivating. If FC Nantes is obviously not from the caste of the biggest European teams, it allowed the men of Christophe Galtier to gauge their agreement on the ground. And this one was real. Without Kylian Mbappé, suspended, the Parisian attack was not lacking in inspiration, however, and Neymar turned into a creator as much as a finisher. Two roles that will suit him perfectly when the big events come up during the season.
When Kylian Mbappé returns, who knows what the trio of Parisian stars will be able to do. Messi has found some finishing, Neymar some game vision, and the speed of a world champion should be added to this interchangeable trio which leaves their coach with a plethora of attacking options.
In Tel Aviv, “we found Neymar”, assures Luis Fernandez, BeIN Sports consultant and former Paris Saint-Germain player. “There are so many critics falling on him that he wants to silence them. He may have prepared differently. It’s a question of attitude and mentality. He really wants to be recognized other than what people say about him. It is changing, there was a click”continues the ex-Parisian technician.
A defensive presence
It is true that the former Barcelonan seemed to put nonchalance aside in favor of a burst of energy that was little known to him before. “Are you defending now?”, Nantes coach Antoine Kombouaré even launched him in the middle of the match to insist on the Brazilian’s change of attitude in relation to the image he was sending back so far.
“We must always insist on the replacement to prevent this team from being cut in two”, explained Christophe Galtier at the microphone of Prime Video after his victory at the Champions Trophy. The instruction was therefore respected by the PSG players and in particular by Neymar. “When you are physically well, it is because you make the necessary efforts and you are able to repeat them, observes Luis Fernandez. He may have had a realization to change his behavior.”
Lionel Messi, Neymar, Christophe Galtier and Kylian Mbappé, July 18, 2022, during PSG’s summer tour in Japan
Credit: Getty Images
And this awareness may be reflected in the stats. Last year, Neymar compiled 13 goals and 6 assists in 22 games, a record certainly good but much less radiant than that of his first season in Paris, in 2017-2018, where he had shot 19 goals and 13 assists in 20 outputs. At the start of the season, the machine is well underway with already another double and an offering during a preparation match against Gamba Osaka on Monday 25 July.
The Neymar-Messi relationship found?
Each time, a value comes back into the equation: Lionel Messi. The relationship between the Argentine and the Brazilian seems to have never worked so well since Messi landed at PSG last season. The Champions Trophy is the perfect illustration of this. The two men constantly searched for each other and the chemistry that made them strong in Barcelona once again came to light.
“With Messi it will always work, they have a special, different relationship. They like each other a lot. Messi helped him a lot at Barcelona, he enjoyed playing at Barça, you can’t forget that, they remained very close. A friendship was born in Barcelona and it is still present”, says Luis Fernandez.
Lionel Messi and Neymar
Credit: Getty Images
This relationship can be worked on all the more as Christophe Galtier has decided to allow himself the possibility of swapping the two players in his 3-4-1-2 game system. Thus, Neymar, who should start in front with Kylian Mbappé, could take the place of Messi’s number 10 during certain matches, even certain phases of play. Nevertheless, Luis Fernandez tends to qualify the impact of the system on Neymar’s performance : “It’s never a system that makes a player change. It’s always the player’s feelings, what he wants to do, to show on the field.
And this year more than the others, Neymar has a lot to show. Because, in addition to Ligue 1 and the Champions League, targeted by the new less “bling-bling” project of the Qataris, the players are also focused on the major international deadline at the end of the calendar year. “It’s off to a good start, but it’s only the first match, it’s going to require confirmation because there’s a lot of expectation. There’s the World Cup coming up,” recalls the former PSG coach. A prospect that Neymar will not forget in December, before starting what could be the highlight of a successful year, the final phase of the Champions League.
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