Qatar-backed PSG and French football braced for Neymar exit

The saga of Neymar’s seemingly inevitable departure from Paris Saint-Germain is proving a long, drawn out affair bringing the curtain down on what will ultimately feel like a fleeting and failed experiment. (AFP)
Updated 15 August 2019

Qatar-backed PSG and French football braced for Neymar exit

  • Since moving to the Parc des Princes, he has played in almost exactly half of his club’s matches
  • Foot injuries saw him miss three of the four Champions League knockout matches the Qatar-owned club have played in

PARIS: The saga of Neymar’s seemingly inevitable departure from Paris Saint-Germain is proving a long, drawn out affair bringing the curtain down on what will ultimately feel like a fleeting and failed experiment.
Having arrived in France in 2017 hoping a world-record transfer to PSG would help him emerge from the shadow of Lionel Messi at Barcelona and win the Ballon d’Or, two years on he looks set to leave with his reputation having taken a serious hit.
There is no doubting the 27-year-old forward is a brilliant player, and there is every chance he will get the success he craves — collectively and, chiefly, individually — by returning to Spain, whether with his old club or Real Madrid.
However, there is every reason to believe a Kylian Mbappe-led PSG, and football in France in general, will ultimately be better off without him.
The French champions’ first Ligue 1 game of the campaign last Sunday, a 3-0 win against Nimes, saw supporters unfurl banners insulting the 222 million-euro ($264 million at the time) man.
Neymar himself was not involved in that game, left out amid the uncertainty over his future. He already missed the season-opening Champions Trophy against Rennes in China due to suspension.
Since moving to the Parc des Princes, he has played in almost exactly half of his club’s matches.
When he has been on the field he has frequently been brilliant, scoring 51 goals in 58 games, but when it has really mattered he has been absent.
Foot injuries saw him miss three of the four Champions League knockout matches the Qatar-owned club have played in since his arrival. Without him, they lost in the last 16 to Real Madrid in 2018 and then to Manchester United this year.
“I like Neymar, I want to keep playing with him, with Kylian and with everyone,” coach Thomas Tuchel said last weekend.
“But the reality is that we must find solutions without ‘Ney’. You can’t lose Neymar and just find someone else who will do the same things.”
Mbappe added that “without Neymar, it’s not the same team,” but PSG can still improve by investing in a more balanced squad — summer signings made so far under sporting director Leonardo are a step in the right direction.
Center-back Abdou Diallo, midfielders Ander Herrera, Pablo Sarabia and Idrissa Gueye have arrived. With the money recouped from the eventual sale of Neymar, not to mention the saving on his 36 million-euro annual wage, more reinforcements can be brought in.
The off-field circus around Neymar has been an unwelcome distraction for too long. On the field, Paris will still have Mbappe.
The other side of the coin is what this means for PSG’s brand. After all, Neymar’s following on social media far outstrips that of his current club.
Similarly, when the French league (LFP) put their television rights up for auction last year, they capitalized on the Brazilian’s presence. Rights for the four seasons from 2020 were sold to Chinese-owned group Mediapro for 1.15 billion euros a year, a huge increase on previous deals.
Television stations could be forgiven for being a little concerned now, but LFP chief Didier Quillot remains bullish.
“It’s always better to have several stars in your league. That said, during the Champions Trophy in China, it was Kylian Mbappe who was the star. His popularity is growing around the world,” he told sports daily L’Equipe.
In any case, Ligue 1 is in a constant state of renewal, forever prepared to see star players move abroad. Nicolas Pepe, Ferland Mendy, Tanguy Ndombele and Ismaila Sarr have all left this summer.
The game in France can move on from Neymar, and everyone will be relieved to let the football on the field do the talking if and when he departs.


India beats New Zealand in 2nd T20, leads 5-match series 2-0

Updated 26 January 2020

India beats New Zealand in 2nd T20, leads 5-match series 2-0

  • New Zealand struggled to achieve any real momentum
  • The match raised further questions about the coaching and captaincy of the New Zealand team

AUCKLAND, New Zealand: K.L. Rahul made an unbeaten 57 Sunday to steer India to a seven-wicket win over New Zealand in the second Twenty20 international and to a 2-0 lead in the five-match series.
Rahul and Shreyas Iyer put on 86 for the third wicket as India cruised past New Zealand’s total of 132-5 with 2.3 overs to spare. Shivam Dube (13 not out) hit a six from the bowling of Tim Southeein in the 18th over to lift India to 135-3.
Iyer made 58 not out and Rahul 56 as India beat New Zealand by six wickets with an over to spare in the first match of the series.
New Zealand made 203-5 batting first in that match but on Sunday, on the same pitch, it struggled to achieve any real momentum. During the second match the pitch played much slower and India bowled expertly to restrict New Zealand’s total.
Martin Guptill made 33 in a 48-run opening partnership with Colin Munro and Tim Seifert made an unbeaten 33 at the end of the innings but New Zealand wasn’t able to reach a total that could stretch India’s deep batting lineup.
Rohit Sharma (8) and captain Virat Kohli (11) were out relatively cheaply but Rahul and Iyer (44) sped India toward a comprehensive victory.
Dube came to the crease shortly before the end and quickly brought the match to a conclusion.
“I think we backed up the first match with a very good performance today, especially with the ball,” Kohli said. “We demanded that the bowlers stood up and took control of what we wanted to do out there.
“I think our line and length and the way we wanted to bowl on that wicket, sticking to one side of the wicket and being shorter was a very good feature of us as a team and helped us restrict a very good New Zealand team.”
New Zealand’s total was inadequate, even on a slower pitch, and India almost toyed with the home side as it made its way to a comfortable win.
New Zealand named the same team that lost the first match of the series and batted after winning the toss, just as it batted when it was outplayed in the first match of the series.
The match raised further questions about the coaching and captaincy of the New Zealand team after its humiliating test series loss in Australia last month. New Zealand showed again Sunday it hasn’t the talent to compete with the best teams in the world.
“As a batting unit we probably needed another 15 or 20 to make that total more competitive,” said New Zealand captain Kane Williamson. “But credit to the way the India side bowled, they’re a class side in all departments and they put us under pressure throughout that middle period.”

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