PSG has created a culture of indulgence and selfishness. It's no way to run a football club

Neymar has been given “privileges” at PSG and this has resulted in a lack of cohesion and teamwork. (AFP)
Updated 09 March 2018
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PSG has created a culture of indulgence and selfishness. It's no way to run a football club

LONDON: It was widely suggested after Paris St-Germain’s limp defeat to Real Madrid on Tuesday that they had missed Neymar, who will be out for the rest of the season with a broken metatarsal. That was probably true.
Neymar, for all the doubts raised about his professionalism, is a player who can turn a game in an instant: One moment of inspiration and the tenor of the match might have been changed. And yet it’s also probably true that PSG would have put up a more effective fight if Neymar had never signed for them.
This is not just a Neymar issue; it is a danger for any team that has one player who dominates or is otherwise notably better than the rest. When Thierry Henry left Arsenal for Barcelona in 2007, for instance, Cesc Fabregas observed that his passing had improved because he was looking to play the ball to the man in the best position rather than always wondering where Henry was.
Similarly the Argentina national side has suffered for years from a dependence on Lionel Messi, just as it once had an over-reliance on Diego Maradona. No Argentina manager is ever going to leave Messi out and nor should they, but equally the tendency to play always through Messi has made Argentina predictable.
A team with a front three of, say, Paulo Dybala, Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Aguero, with Angel Di Maria, Javier Mascherano and Ever Banega behind them, should in itself be a threat at any major tournament, and yet somehow Messi’s presence (or even worse his absence) inhibits them. When he is there everything goes through him; on the odd occasion he is not there the sense of what he might add, the loss of the comfort that even if things are going badly he might do something, adds a terrible doubt.
A similar process could be seen with Neymar at the last World Cup.
Some combination of the Brazilian hype machine and Luiz Felipe Scolari’s archaic tactics had left Brazil entirely reliant on their biggest star. Their squad also included the likes of Oscar, Willian and Hernanes but everything was funnelled through Neymar. The other creative players were, at best, decoys. When Neymar was then injured, there was tactical and emotional collapse and the result was the 7-1 defeat to Germany in the semi-final.
What has been allowed to happen at PSG is startling, a triumph of celebrity and ego over any kind of team-building. This PSG is worse than the side that beat Chelsea in 2015-16 before being eliminated, worse than Manchester City in the quarter-final, worse than the side that troubled Barcelona in 2012-13. This was probably, in fact, PSG’s limpest exit from the Champions League since it failed to qualify six years ago. All that money and you are left with a side that is essentially a supporting cast for one man.
The team that succumbed so feebly on Tuesday was full of good players.
It should have been able at least to compete with Real Madrid, who are, after all, third in Spain, 15 points off the top of the table. It should not always have been looking for a star who was not there. But bad habits have become ingrained. This has gone far beyond the distorting effect of Henry at Arsenal or Messi with Argentina. This is a culture of indulgence and selfishness.
When the club lays on a three-day birthday party for a player and the manager is expected to turn up and cut the cake, what hope then for any sort of planning or discipline? Neymar has “privileges.” He is exempted from defensive duties. He is seemingly allowed to do what he wants on the pitch. That culture spreads. When Dani Alves laid in Kylian Mbappe late in the first half on Tuesday a ball rolled across goal would have left Edinson Cavani with a tap-in. Instead he shot from a narrow angle and the chance was lost. Selfishness has become endemic; everybody out for their own aggrandisement.
That is no way to run a football club. The coach, Unai Emery, will no doubt pay the price in the summer, but the real issue at PSG is that no top side can ever be beholden to one player, and especially not one so self-absorbed as Neymar.


Naomi Osaka shocked as Kristina Mladenovic downs world No. 1 in Dubai

Updated 48 min 4 sec ago
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Naomi Osaka shocked as Kristina Mladenovic downs world No. 1 in Dubai

  • It was Osaka's first match since she won the Australian Open — her second consecutive Grand Slam title.
  • World No. 67 Mladenovic lost for words after surprise win.

DUBAI: Naomi Osaka stumbled badly in her first match since winning the Australian Open as the world number one went down in a flurry of errors to exit the Dubai Championships on Tuesday.
Dubai-based Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic claimed a 6-3, 6-3 victory to reach the third round as Osaka made 25 unforced errors.
The rout, which featured seven breaks of the Osaka serve, took barely an hour, sending Mladenovic into a Wednesday contest with Carla Suarez Navarro.
“This is my home tournament, I live here,” world No. 67 Mladenovic said. “It’s great to get a win like this in front of a big crowd.
“Beating the number one is always special.”
The second set was riddled with seven consecutive breaks of serve before Mladenovic finished off the job with a winner to the empty court on match point.
Osaka stunned the tennis world last week by announcing her split from coach Sascha Bajin despite winning back-to-back Grand Slam titles at the US and Australian Opens.
She said earlier this week that she would not prioritize “success over happiness” when asked about the sacking, and she never looked like winning in Dubai as she also served five double faults.
Earlier on Tuesday, Simona Halep and Petra Kvitova both won their opening matches, while Elina Svitolina made a strong start to her bid for a third straight title.
Kvitova, the 2013 winner, recovered from losing a first-set tiebreak to defeat Katerina Siniakova 6-7 (3/7), 6-4, 6-4 and squeeze into the third round.
Halep, Dubai champion in 2015, saw off 2014 Wimbledon finalist Eugenie Bouchard 7-6 (7/4), 6-4.
The Romanian said she is still feeling the effects of her weekend final defeat in Doha by Elize Mertens.
“It was a good match because I won it. I tried to finish the points faster because I’m a little bit tired,” Halep said.
“She played well, the level was pretty good. At some points I really ran very well. I’m confident. I feel good on court even if I’m tired.”
A third former world number one also advanced as Angelique Kerber beat Dalila Jakupovic 7-6 (7/4), 6-3.
Kvitova, Wimbledon champion in 2011 and 2014, said she was unfazed about the early midday start to her match.
“I don’t really care if I play the first match,” the Australian Open runner-up said. “Now I’m done, so I have a free afternoon.
“I’m not sure what I’m pleased with... maybe with my comeback at the end.”