PSG’s card against Montpellier, Saturday during the 2nd day of Ligue 1 (5-2), was marred by a concern between Kylian Mbappé and Neymar when taking a penalty. The Brazilian added a layer on the networks after the match. What displease the Parisian management, which cropped its two stars the next day.
What is this “penaltygate”?
As its name suggests, this is a story… of penalties. In this case, one of those obtained by PSG against Montpellier, Saturday at the Parc des Princes, during the 2nd day of Ligue 1 (5-2). On a strike from Lionel Messi, the referee whistled a hand from a Montpellier defender in the area in the 43rd. Just before halftime. Paris then led 1-0 and Neymar grabbed the ball to go for the penalty. But Kylian Mbappé, who had missed one a few moments earlier, came to speak with the Brazilian. As if to invite him to let him try his luck again, no doubt in the hope of catching up. The dialogue lasted a few seconds between the two men, without gesture of humor or aggression. But with a rather palpable embarrassment. Under the eyes of a circumspect stadium.
Finally, Mbappé moved away and Neymar transformed this famous penalty, with his usual serenity. The PSG number 10 (congratulated by Mbappé in the process) is one of the most successful in the world in this exercise. His slow running, his gaze planted in that of the goalkeeper and his ability to place the ball where he wants, until the last moment, make him a particularly formidable shooter. After the meeting, the 30-year-old star also called him back on the networks, indirectly tackling Mbappé in passing. Neymar “liked” several messages on Twitter from Internet users claiming that he was hitting penalties better than his French teammate. What confirm the discomfort glimpsed on the ground and trigger this “penaltygate”.
Who should take this penalty?
Christophe Galtier has chosen not to establish a hierarchy for the coming season regarding penalty takers. The PSG coach will decide match after match, depending on the context and the form of the players. For this poster against Montpellier, Galtier had designated Mbappé as the n°1 shooter and Neymar as the n°2. The 55-year-old coach explained it himself at a press conference. The Blues striker therefore logically struck the first penalty of the evening, but he missed it. Neymar then decided to take responsibility by taking charge of the second penalty, and he converted it. It remains to be seen if it was planned for the Brazilian to do so in case the Frenchman misses his first attempt. It is not clear at this level.
How did PSG settle the case?
The management of the capital club did not drag to manage the problem. From Sunday, the day after the match, coach Christophe Galtier and sports adviser Luis Campos brought together Neymar and Kylian Mbappé. To burst the abscess without waiting, in a fair and pragmatic way. During this exchange, revealed by Le Parisien and confirmed by RMC Sport, Campos reminded the two stars that their behavior should at no time hinder the performance of the team. And that if there was a disagreement about a sporting choice, it had to be settled internally. Not on the lawn, in front of everyone.
A way to remind Neymar and Mbappé that PSG now attaches particular importance to discipline. Never mind the egos, CVs and names of the protagonists. Neymar has admitted his social media activity may offend. The Brazilian and the French did not want to outbid and the incident was quickly closed. Internally, the champions of France even believe that it is a “no deal”.
Is this a first?
No, this is not the first time that two PSG stars have fought over a penalty. The problem arose in September 2017 during a league match against OL (2-0). And Neymar was already in the game. At the time, the Brazilian crack, arrived during the summer from FC Barcelona (for 222 million euros, the most expensive transfer in the history of football), had bickered with Edinson Cavani. The Uruguayan striker, designated as the No. 1 shooter by coach Unai Emery, had to fend off Neymar when he went to try his luck against the goalkeeper. And he had missed his attempt…
Something to talk about a lot. Especially since the Brazilian defender Daniel Alves had, in this same match, removed a ball from Cavani to give it to Neymar during a free kick obtained by PSG. This first “penaltygate” had not been the subject of any reframing on the part of the management. Result: the incident had left its mark and tarnished the relationship between the two players involved.
How do Mbappé and Neymar get along?
They arrived together in Paris in the summer of 2017. Neymar was then one of the greatest players on the planet at Barça and Mbappé a rising star in Monaco. And the two gifted people quickly got along, on and off the field. With big smiles and a clearly defined hierarchy, in which the young Mbappé lets King Neymar, six years his senior, shine. But over the years, as the Frenchman rose to power, the statutes became closer. And the relationship seemed a little fresher. She remained cordial, however, at least on the surface, until Neymar’s recent ‘likes’.
But the events of the weekend lead to questions about the relationship currently maintained by the two aces. Would the bickering be purely sporting or are there more personal reasons behind it? Some have raised the possibility that Mbappé demanded Neymar’s departure at the start of the summer. Whether true or not, the rumor could very well have affected the former prodigy of Santos, who would not necessarily have been retained by PSG in the event of a satisfactory offer from another club.
Other worries on the horizon?
Officially, the “penaltygate” is closed. Until the next episode. Galtier and Campos, who were also hired to clean up the red and blue house, moved quickly to put out the embers. But nothing says that there will not be others in the weeks to come. During the next meetings, the attitudes of Neymar and Mbappé will be scrutinized in the smallest details. To see how the two players will digest things.
And above all, what will happen the next time Paris get a penalty? On this subject, Galtier will have to impose his choices and clarify the situation at each outing, so as not to leave room for doubt. Hoping that his instructions are respected, without sulking or resentment. Even if they are not necessarily the best friends in the world, Neymar and Mbappé are able to put their talent at the service of the team. They have amply proven this in the past. It remains to be seen whether they still want it, one and the other. PSG want to believe that is the case. His future success certainly depends on it.