EXCLUSIVE: Qatar-owned PSG in frantic bid to keep star man Neymar

Neymar has scored 19 goals in 20 games for PSG since his $262 million move to the French capital last summer.
Updated 18 May 2018

EXCLUSIVE: Qatar-owned PSG in frantic bid to keep star man Neymar

  • Neymar has had an up and down season at PSG since his world-record move to the Parc Des Princes.
  • Brazilian star publicly and privately encouraged to return to Spanish football by Real Madrid president Florentino Perez.

LONDON: Paris Saint-Germain have made it clear to Neymar that there are absolutely no circumstances under which the Qatar-owned club’s record signing will be allowed to leave for Real Madrid this summer.
If necessary, PSG are prepared to present the Brazil international with the option of playing his football in Paris next season or not playing football at all, sources at the club have told Arab News.
Privately and publicly encouraged by Madrid president Florentino Perez to return to Spanish football just one year after his global record transfer from Barcelona, Neymar and his father have been agitating for the move for months. According to PSG sources, Qatar will not countenance handing over the most high-profile and expensive acquisition of a project designed to secure the club’s first Champions League.
Senior club figures have spent much of Neymar’s first season attempting to placate the Brazil international. In just one example, club president Nasser Al-Khelaifi and sporting director Antero Henrique flew to South America in March to meet Neymar and his father and discuss how the club could keep the pair happy. Talks between the two camps included asking Neymar’s thoughts on who should replace Unai Emery as PSG coach, said a source close to the player.
The meeting followed a debut campaign pockmarked by evidence of Neymar’s discontent in France. There has been on and off-field tension between the forward and leading goalscorer Edinson Cavani, whom the Brazil international wanted to replace as the taker of the side’s penalties and free kicks.
Neymar complained about coach Emery’s tactics, man management and refusal to allow him to skip certain matches. On more than one occasion, the forward unilaterally declared himself unfit to play. As he recovered from surgery on a fractured metatarsal in his home country, the 26-year-old provoked further controversy by posting an image of himself playing online poker while his PSG team-mates secured the Ligue 1 title.
Bought out of his Barcelona contract for €222 million ($262 million) at the beginning of August, Neymar was rewarded with a basic salary worth more than €300 million over the length of a five-year contract — at that point the most lucrative ever agreed. No release clause was included in the Brazilian’s new deal, however, so a second successive summer switch can only happen with Qatari consent.
That, according to PSG sources, will not be forthcoming, with the club’s hierarchy ready to reprise the negotiating tactics with which they kept Marco Verratti in France a year ago. Holding offers from leading Liga and Serie A sides, the Italy midfielder pushed PSG to be allowed to leave only to be told that his options were: “To stay. Or stay and not play. Whichever you’d prefer.”
Verratti stayed and played. PSG are confident that, ultimately, Neymar will make the same choice under Thomas Tuchel, the new coach appointed by the club with the aim of landing a first Champions League. Last week Neymar published an image of himself in his employer’s 2018-19 first-team kit. “Proud to wear the new jersey and to continue giving you joy,” read the caption.

‘Man, I was so surprised’: Saudi Olympian Al-Muawi clinches bronze in Argentina games

The podium for the Athletics Mens 200m: Haruto Deguchi JPN (centre, Gold Medalist), Daniel Huller HUN (left, Silver Medalist) and Mohammed Duhaim M Almuawi KSA (right, Bronze Medalist) at the Athletics Field, Youth Olympic Park. The Youth Olympic Games, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Tuesday 16th October 2018. Photo: Ivo Gonzalez for OIS/IOC. (Handout image supplied by OIS/IOC)
Updated 17 October 2018

‘Man, I was so surprised’: Saudi Olympian Al-Muawi clinches bronze in Argentina games

  • Al-Muawi has been racing hurdles for five years after picking it out as a sport he could excel in at the age of 12

BUENOS AIRES: With his bag packed and preparing to leave the Youth Olympic Park one last time on Tuesday night, Mohammed Al-Muawi was called back to the scene of the 400-metres Hurdles event, in which he had just finished fourth overall. With doping officials thronged at the entrance, he assumed he must have been randomly selected for testing. Instead, he got the news he will now never forget.

The 17-year-old Saudi is an Olympic bronze medallist.

“Man, I was so surprised to find out,” he told Arab News after being promoted onto the podium after South Africa’s Lindukhule Gora was disqualified. “It was my first competition and my first medal, so it’s amazing. This here means everything to me. When I finished the race, I was like ‘OK, fourth is OK’. I put my clothes back on and got ready to leave, but then they told me: ‘Come back, come back! You have a bronze medal!’ I was like, ‘What? How is that even possible?’”

Under a blistering sun and having led for much of the first 300m, Al-Muawi tired as the home straight loomed, crossing the finish-line fifth with a time of 53.05s. With Gora being disqualified for stepping out of his lane, however, Al-Muawi was immediately pushed up a place. Then, having bettered France’s Martin Fraysse’s time in the first-stage heat, it came down to the calculator.

Al-Muawi was 0.37s faster than Fraysse in the first heat, while Fraysse finished the second just 0.33s ahead. The result: the Asian Youth Championships silver-medallist posted a combined time of 1.45.81, making him the third quickest across a field of continental winners, beating Fraysse by just 0.04s.

“It's confusing for sure, but across the two heats, I was second and fourth, so I feel third is deserved," he said, looking down and caressing the bronze medal hanging from his neck. "It was a very strong field in the final. I started well, but the last 100m or so was very tiring and I was unable to really open my legs. It’s been an amazing experience though. Wow. I love the competition, the village, eating the different foods…it’s been unforgettable. And this just tops it all off.”

Al-Muawi splits his time between schooling in Bisha in the south of the Kingdom and training in Los Angeles, California, with World Championships silver-medallist Ryan Wilson. Saudi athletics delegation head, Saad Al-Asmari — himself a former 3000m Asian champion — expects this to be the start of more success not only for Al-Muawi but for Saudi athletics.

“Mohammed did very well,” said Al-Asmari. “He ran very well and it was only in the final 100 metres he had some problems. This result is very good for him and I’m very happy because he is only 17. Also, we have many other talents like this in Saudi Arabia. We have many athletes, but we need good coaching.

“Mohammed has been training since May in LA, which is where we send all our best athletes. When they come back, we always notice little differences: their body shape changes, their technique, endurance, everything.”

Al-Muawi has been racing hurdles for five years after picking it out as a sport he could excel in at the age of 12. He will head home to Bisha now to spend time with his family and continue his studies for two months before returning to LA to prepare for next year’s Asian Championships. The most important lesson he has learnt from Wilson in the United States is not physical, but rather psychological, he said.

“It’s has been a great experience for me over there so far,” he added, his English having improved considerably since his switch. “My coach there has shown support throughout, always telling me that I can do it. Always urging me to never give up. He tells me that before every competition I must tell myself: ‘I am hungry’. He tells me always that I’m a different breed too, so I guess I then begin to believe it — yes, I am a different breed."