Neymar left out of Paris Saint-Germain opener

Paris Saint-Germain's Neymar during training. (Reuters)
Updated 10 August 2019

Neymar left out of Paris Saint-Germain opener

  • Real Madrid or a return to Barcelona are the most likely destinations for the world’s most expensive footballer

SAINT-GERMAIN-EN-LAYE: Paris Saint-Germain revealed on Saturday that Neymar transfer talks are "more advanced than before" after the Brazilian was dropped for the French champions' opening Ligue 1 match.

Sporting director Leonardo confirmed to reporters that the Brazilian was near the exit door but that PSG were "not yet ready to give their approval (to the transfer)" ahead of Sunday's match at the Parc des Princes.

Real Madrid or a return to Barcelona are the most likely destinations for the world's most expensive footballer, with Spanish media on Friday saying that Zinedine Zidane's side will battle Barca for the 27-year-old's signature.

Sports newspaper AS claimed Neymar has been offered to Madrid by PSG, who are open to selling if they can either recoup the €222 million ($249 million) they spent on him in 2017 or receive half that amount with players included in the deal.

Barcelona-based Mundo Deportivo says that he would prefer a move back to Catalonia to play alongside former teammates Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.

Neymar started the new season by angering the club when he turned up one week late for training.

The player’s camp maintained he had a prior agreement to stay away but that didn't wash with his employers who threatened to take “appropriate action.”

Off the pitch, Neymar was informed by a Brazilian judge on Friday that the rape case which has been hanging over the footballer for months had been dismissed due to insufficient evidence.

Neymar had vehemently denied allegations he raped a Brazilian woman in a Paris hotel in May.

The forward, whose time in France has been marked by injuries and controversies, has made a series of remarks that strained his relationship further with the club and sparked outrage on social media.

Asked by an online sports channel about his best memory in football, he cited Barcelona's incredible 2017 Champions League victory over PSG when he was part of the team that overturned a 4-0 first-leg deficit by winning 6-1 in the second leg of their last-16 tie.


Thuram brace powers Gladbach to 4-1 victory over Berlin

Updated 25 min 52 sec ago

Thuram brace powers Gladbach to 4-1 victory over Berlin

  • The French striker takes knee in show of solidarity with protests in US

BERLIN: Borussia Moenchengladbach routed Union Berlin 4-1 on Sunday behind closed doors with French striker Marcus Thuram scoring twice and taking a knee in protest at the death of an unarmed black man in the US.

First half goals by midfielder Florian Neuhaus, who bagged Gladbach’s 3,000th goal in the Bundesliga, and Thuram put Gladbach 2-0 up at the break.

Union’s Swedish striker Sebastian Andersson pulled one back early in the second half after being left unmarked.

However, Gladbach pulled away when Thuram added his second after pressing the Union defense.

The 22-year-old French striker then took a knee on the Borussia Park turf, imitating NFL star Colin Kaepernick.

It was the latest show of Bundesliga solidarity with the current protests sweeping the US.

Schalke’s US midfielder Weston McKennie wore an armband in Saturday’s defeat to Werder Bremen bearing the words “Justice for George.” 

George Floyd, 46, died in Minneapolis in an arrest by a police officer who pinned him to the ground for several minutes by kneeling on his neck.

On Sunday, Alassane Plea grabbed a goal of his own for Gladbach, having set up Thuram’s first, when he fired home off his left foot on 81 minutes to beat Union goalkeeper Rafal Gikiewicz.

After a 3-1 defeat to Leverkusen last weekend, and a goalless draw with relegation-threatened Werder Bremen on Tuesday, this was an important win for Gladbach.

It lifted them to third in the table, but RB Leipzig can take their place if they win at Cologne on Monday.

On Saturday, reigning champions Bayern Munich opened a 10-point lead with a 5-0 thrashing of Fortuna Duesseldorf with the league’s top-scorer Robert Lewandowski netting twice.

 

Hungarian fans return to stadiums after lockdown

Fans returned to Hungarian football stadia at the weekend after a two-month break due to the coronavirus, a first in Europe where other leagues have resumed behind closed doors.

The Hungarian Football Association (MLSZ) decided Thursday to allow clubs let fans in for the first time since March on condition that every second row in stadia remains empty, and that only every fourth seat is occupied.

Outside the Diosgyor club stadium in the northeastern city of Miskolc Saturday before its game with Mezokovesd their supporters said they were glad to be back and meet fellow fans again.

“We’ll keep the rules as there could be closed-doors games again if we screw up,” said Richard Kovacs, 36.

Some 2,255 spectators attended the game, one of six to take place in Hungary at the weekend, with the stands speckled with scattered fans.

“The virus hasn’t disappeared so we must keep the distance,” said 18-year-old student Csaba Gasparics wearing a Diosgyor facemask.

“We are only worried if we win or loses, not about the epidemic,” said Gabor Lengyel, 41.

Apart from in Budapest where Hungary’s biggest club Ferencvaros has a large fan base, typical crowds are small with a nationwide average last season of around 3,000.

“We were already maintaining social distancing in the stadiums very well,” one web user joked after the MLSZ announcement.

Other European countries that have relaunched their leagues in May, or are about to do so, are playing behind closed doors.

Hungary, which has a population of 9.8 million, had by Sunday recorded 3,876 cases and 526 deaths in the coronavirus pandemic.

Restrictions have gradually been eased across the country and Budapest fully reopened its bars and restaurants on the weekend.