Final nail in PSG’s coffin Neymar fails to return back to France

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The relationship between PSG and Neymar has reached a new low after the Brazilian failed to show up for training on Monday.

PSG’s official statement said: ‘On Monday 8 July Neymar da Silva Santos Junior was due to return to pre-season activities with the Paris Saint-Germain senior squad. Paris Saint-Germain notes that Neymar Jr was not in attendance at the agreed time and place. This was without the club’s prior authorisation. The club regrets this situation and will therefore take appropriate action.’

The obvious problem is that Neymar was never going to be back in France with PSG a day after Brazil won the Copa America in Brazil. True Neymar has been injured for the tournament but it was obvious that he was going to be at the final, Brazil’s first in 12 years and when the team won it is again obvious that he is naturally going to celebrate with the team, to think otherwise means you want to start an excuse for an argument.

Some could argue that why would PSG want Neymar back in training if he is injured. But today in Paris was all about medical check ups, and so in theory Neymar should have been there. But it is clear that there has been a breakdown in communications between club and player. It now looks inevitable that Neymar will be fined for his actions, not that he will care, he will just enjoy to celebrate with Brazil.

At the same time Neymar could have contacted the club and told them in advance of his plans and this is what has clearly irked them. There is an underlying cause of course and that is PSG want to keep their player whilst Neymar wants to leave and return back to Barcelona, could this be part of his chess move to force PSG’s hand so he can move back to La Liga?

This could well be the final nail in the coffin and it wouldn’t be a surprise if Neymar really has played his last game for PSG. The catch in all of this is can Barcelona afford both Griezmann and Neymar, the truth of the matter has to be no, and the deal looks like it will only go through if PSG will take on at least 3 of Barcelona’s players in some kind of player swap deal plus cash.

The summer is hot but in Paris and in Barcelona it just got hotter.

Top Ligue 1 Midfielders in 2018/19: Houssem Aouar

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In his professional career Houssem Aouar has only ever known playing for Lyon, and the fans love the midfielder. One of the reasons for this is that Aouar is a local boy and was born in Lyon in 1998 just weeks after France won their first World Cup.

Aouar has grown into his role at Lyon over the last couple of seasons and is now seen as a natural selection when the team plays each season. What caught Lyon’s attention was that Aouar was to be found to be able to play in any position in midfield and he can play as a winger, attacking midfielder and even a holding one- that is priceless for a club and quite rare.

Aouar finished 6th in the European Fantasy League rankings for midfielders in Ligue 1 and ended up with a points total of 60, the same as Ismaila Sarr who plays for Rennes. The player started 35 games last season and was involved in 14 of Lyon’s goals- scoring 7 and assisting in 7. When he played Lyon had 10 clean sheets and he was only booked two times with no red cards showing his maturity and he is still only 21. His value last season was placed at 8m.

It was not a good start to the season for Aouar who in his first five games managed just 4 points. Arguably his best game came in November when Lyon played Guingamp away from home, it was a thrilling match that ended 4-2 to Lyon. Aouar scored a goal and assisted in another and was able to earn 6 points. He earned 6 points in two other games later that season for more assists and clean sheets but was not able to topple that score for one game.

His worst points tally came against PSG when Lyon lost 5-0. Because of his position he didn’t lose points for goals conceded but he did pick up a yellow card and ended the game with -1 point. To his credit this was the only game of the season where he ended with minus points.

Aouar’s best period of the season started when Lyon beat Nimes 2-0 in mid October and ran for the next four games where he remained consistent and so did his club and picked up 18 points.

Lyon chased for Europe but could not catch eventual runners up Lille who had a superb season themselves. However 3rd place for Lyon was good enough to enter the play-offs for the Champions League proper where they will feel very confident that they can qualify from.

The most impressive statement to make about Aouar is that he was Lyon’s best midfielder last season. Better than Nebil Fekir which says everything and statistically better than Tottenham bound Tanguy Ndombele. His future in football looks very exciting.

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Top Ligue 1 Goalkeepers in 2018/19: Benjamin Lecomte

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Montpellier’s Benjamin Lecomte ended up being ranked as the 6th best goalkeeper in Ligue 1. The club fought for a European place and had some incredibly consistent moments during the season but ultimately fell short.

Lecomte started his professional career with Lorient’s B team and then the senior team where he ended up playing over 100 games. But after being edged out he was loaned to Dijon and ended up back at Lorient soon after. It wasn’t until 2017 that Montpellier in Ligue 1 took the plunge and signed Lecomte on a full time contract.

In his two seasons for Montpellier he has been a near constant presence, indeed he has missed just 1 game in that time in the league. This season Lecomte kept 11 clean sheets and ended up with a total points haul of 44. With him in goal the club conceded 42 goals. Lecomte was only booked once this season which is amongst the best for goalkeepers in the league. He would have cost you for your team at the beginning of the season 9.5m.

Lecomte’s season did not start off well as Montpellier were beaten in their first game 2-1 against Dijon and so he ended up with a points total of -2. In the next game Montpellier lost again and it wasn’t until the 3rd game of his season that the points started to roll in.

A 0-0 against Saint Etienne and a 1-0 victory over Reims meant that Lecomte earned 14 points in two games in a row with back to back clean sheets. The ongoing problem for the keeper was that consistency wasn’t his strong point which summed up Montpellier’s season too.

His most successful period of the season commenced in late October against Bordeaux and 3 club wins in  a row, keeping clean sheets in all of those games where Montpellier also found their firing boots scoring 7 goals meant that Lecomte earned 21 points in those three games, that ended up being almost half his season points earned in just that small time frame.

His worst game of the season was pretty much most goalkeepers worst games of the season playing away to champions PSG. And PSG won 5-1 meaning that Lecomte points total in that match dived to -8 points.

Once the game was up for Europe Montpellier did not play to the best of their levels and this was seen in Lecomte’s performances and final games where he earned just 6 points in his last four outings and those points came in one game. His final game of the season ended in a 1-0 defeat against Marseille earning him no points.

Last season Lecomte earned 79 points and so this season proved to be a backward step for a goalkeeper who has developed late but at the same time plays in a position where he should keep improving well into his 30′s.

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Kylian Mbappe should be Real Madrid’s number one long term target

Eden Hazard’s transfer to Real Madrid was a number of years in the making. The Belgian had been eyed up by the Spanish club for a long time before Florentino Perez finally sanctioned the £100 million fee to take him to the Santiago Bernabeu this summer. This is often the way of the mega-money deals Real Madrid have a long history of.

Take their pursuit of Cristiano Ronaldo, for instance. Originally, Real Madrid wanted to sign the Portuguese forward from Manchester United in the summer of 2008 just after he’d led the Old Trafford club to the Champions League title. Instead, they had to wait until the following summer to get their man.

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These transfers are not easy to pull off and take time to put together. This goes some way to explaining why just weeks after the signing of Hazard talk has already turned to who Real Madrid could target as their next long term addition. Many see Neymar as the man destined to one day pull on the famous white shirt.

Indeed, Real Madrid’s interest in the Brazilian has been well documented with speculation heightened following the news that Neymar wants to leave Paris Saint-Germain this summer. But is he really who Real Madrid should be lining up as their number one target for the long term?

Kylian Mbappe has also been linked with a move to the Santiago Bernabeu and he, over Neymar, should be who Real Madrid prioritise. While there are questions over Neymar’s character and attitude, with his form suffering as a consequence over the past two seasons, Mbappe is widely seen as the face of the future of the sport.

What’s more, Mbappe is a Real Madrid fan, supporting the club since childhood. There have been suggestions that he would be willing to force through a move to the Santiago Bernabeu with the forward reportedly refusing to enter renegotiation talks over a new contract with PSG. This puts Real Madrid in a good position.

Not so long ago, Neymar looked like the future of the sport. At Barcelona, he was the next best player in the world. PSG broke the Brazilian, though. Mbappe, however, has kept his star rising. He is already a World Cup winner and one of the best strikers in the game, but his upward trajectory could still carry him much further.

Real Madrid is a club that prides itself on signing the best players on the planet. They have forged a whole identity from this notion and for many Neymar fits the bill. But does he fit the bill as well as Mbappe? If Real Madrid are drawing up a transfer plan for the long term, they should target the latter over the former.

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Top Ligue 1 Defenders in 2018/19: Thiago Silva

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Thiago Silva feels like part of the furniture at multi champions PSG and the Brazilian has certainly been loyal to the club from Paris. He joined the club in 2012 from AC Milan and has played almost 200 league games and counting cups that rises to almost 300 games.

It was another solid year for Silva in the back four even if it meant just the league title this season as PSG imploded in the domestic cups and also the Champions League. Still at 34 Silva is rightly regarded as one of the best defenders in the game today.

Silva started the season with a value of 9.5m in the fantasy rankings and finished 5th in the defenders rankings for Ligue 1. He earned 60 points and was just four shy of fellow Brazilian Dante Costa. Silva has never been one for his goals, which is justifiable given his position and he did not score any this past season although he did assist in one goal. He was able to be part of a four man wall that kept 14 clean sheets and he was booked on four occasions, but not sent off.

Whilst Silva did earn 5 points for keeping a clean sheet in PSG’s opening 4-0 victory over Caen it was in the following games where he struggled. Even though PSG won their next 3 matches, they conceded in each of them including 2 against Nimes and that meant that Silva was punished and earned -1 point for those games.

Because Silva wasn’t able to earn any extra points through scoring goals his best points tally in single match was just 5, which he earned 14 times. He had two moments of good consistency in the season. The first was just before Christmas in a period which saw the champions thrash Guingamp 9-0 and he earned points in 4 games in a row. The other was towards the end of the season in February and onto March where he went another four games earning points which ended up totalling 19 points.

His worst points total coincided with PSG’s dismal poor form at the end of the season when they had virtually wrapped up the league title. He went the last four games of the season earning in just one game and letting slip -6 points in the other three games. His worst tally in one game ended up being against Lille when the team in 2nd place upset PSG at home and won 5-1, earning Silva -4 points.

Silva looks set to stay at PSG as it was announced before the end of the season that he and his family had been confirmed as French citizens- and that can only be a benefit for French football and PSG. He also earned one more point this past season than the season before.

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Donnarumma can leave AC Milan, but only for the right price

Late last night, Gianluca Di Marzio broke the news about PSG’s interest in Gigio Donnarumma, who could be sacrificed this summer by AC Milan in order to finance the market, while improving their books. However, the reports have angered many Rossoneri fans, not because of the departure per say, but rather the price tag. 

Di Marzio claimed that Milan are looking to get €50m for the goalkeeper, with PSG possibly including Areola in the deal to decrease the price tag to a laughable €20m. Given that Donnarumma is one of the best goalkeepers in the world, it’s safe to say the offer felt like an insult to the Rossoneri fans. Continue reading

Top Ligue 1 Midfielders in 2018/19: Ismaila Sarr

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Ismaila Sarr may not come first to your mind when you think of brilliant midfielders plying their trade in France’s Ligue 1 but Sarr had a very solid season at Rennes to end up being the 5th best midfielder of the season.

Sarr who is from Senegal is widely unknown even in the league- although his performances this season should change that view. One has to remember that Sarr is still only 21. Sarr had played for Metz before being snapped up by Rennes in 2017 and has since fit into the team without any problems.

The Rennes midfielder would have cost you 7.5m to have in your team- that could go up next season after his performances in this one. He gained a total of 60 points, just 10 points shy of Reims’ Remi Oudin. His goal scoring feats were impressive as he netted 8 times and assisted in a further 6 goals and was part of a team that kept 11 clean sheets.

Sarr’s season started by picking up points in 3 of his first four matches as his play and his team gained momentum. However that was stopped soon after as Rennes went through a bad period of form that begun in mid September. As a consequence Sarr picked up no points for 5 games in a row.

His best form started at the beginning of December where he scored points in five consecutive games totalling 18 altogether. His best game of the season actually came down to two matches. The early season win over Angers in which he scored a goal and kept a clean sheet and the terrific 2-0 win at Lyon where he assisted in both goals and of course kept a clean sheet. For the player the Lyon victory might be the best moment of his season league wise.

Sarr picked up 6 bookings but otherwise never finished a game below -1 points which is an impressive sign at his age that he is maturing well. This is his highest ever points total and he will be looking to keep that momentum going for next season.

As for Rennes season they had a memorable one. True they could only finish in 10th place with 52 points and finished 14 points from a European place, but that is only the beginning of the story. Rennes qualified for the Europa League after winning their first major trophy in a generation when they stunned PSG in the Coupe de France final and beat them. It was one of the biggest shocks in French football history. The club won on penalties after a 2-2 draw and Sarr was on hand to score one of his to crown a very special season indeed.

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Top Ligue 1 Goalkeepers in 2018/19: Stephane Ruffier

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Saint Etienne played some wonderful football this past season, so good in fact that some media compared them to the great side of the 1970s that somehow made a nation fall in love with them for a few years. In the end their hard work paid off and they qualified for the Europa League and goalkeeper Stephan Ruffier was a key component to the clubs success this season.

Ruffier collected 58 points and finished in 5th place in the European Fantasy League Ligue 1 rankings for goalkeepers. In fact only 4 points separated him from finishing in 3rd.

The 32 year old has been at Saint Etienne for 8 years and made almost 300 appearances for the club, making 37 starts from 38 in the league this past season. While the club did concede 40 goals under Ruffier he also made 13 clean sheets the 4th best in the league. Disciplinary was good too with just one yellow card all season and his value going into the season was 7.5m which looks to have been a bargain.

It’s interesting to note that Ruffier picked up his one booking of the season in the first game of the campaign, but because he did so and because Saint Etienne conceded in both of their opening games he started matchday 3 with -1 points.

His season really kicked off against Montpellier when the teams played out a 0-0 draw at Stade de la Mosson but that earned Ruffier a clean sheets total of 7 points.

Ruffier’s most consistent period came just at the right time when Saint Etienne also known as the Verts (greens because of their shirts) went 3 games in a row without conceding a goal in April. And this form was key to the club making a European place and fighting off the likes of Marseille and Montpellier and for a time Reims.

The games came thick and fast and started with a 3-0 win over Bordeaux. Nobody gave Saint Etienne much chance away to Reims in their next game but they went there and won 2-0 and finished off their trilogy of matches with a 2-0 win over Toulouse and Ruffier earned a whopping 21 points in those three matches.

Ruffier’s worst points total was inevitably in Paris when PSG the reigning champions beat them 4-0 and as a result he ended up with -6 points.

His last two seasons have seen him earn much less than he did in this one, and he has improved significantly showing signs of perhaps getting back to his 2014 season best. His value looks sure to rise as he nears completing 10 years with the club that is clearly in his heart and now he will be back in European football for next season.

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Top Ligue 1 Defenders in 2018/19: Dante Costa

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When Dante Costa hangs up his boots his story will be told that here is a player that got better as he got older. And at age 35 he put in some terrific displays for his club Nice, to be ranked as the 4th best defender in Ligue 1.

Dante Costa also known as simply Dante joined Nice from Bundesliga side VFL Wolfsburg in 2016, and has now made 96 appearances for the French club. His big break in football didn’t come until his late 20s and since then Dante Costa has not looked back.

His worst point of his career was perhaps when he was picked for Brazil to play in the semi-final of the World Cup against Germany in 2014, as a defender it couldn’t have got any worse when Brazil were infamously beaten 7-1 by the Germans who went onto win that years competition.

This season under the guidance of coach Patrick Vieira who himself this was his first term with Nice, Dante seemed calm, collective and full of confidence in the back four. This was recognised by Vieira who was only too happy to regularly pick the Brazilian for the side. In all Dante played 36 games from 38 and earned a total of 64 points just six points shy of 3rd place.

Dante of course is not expected to score goals or be in the build up to one but he still managed 1 goal and also had one assist. One question mark about him was his aggressiveness which led to 11 yellow cards for the season, though he managed not to get sent off in the league.

With Nice starting poorly in the league this affected Dante and he went the opening 3 games without scoring a point, indeed because of the goals conceded he was down by -3 points. It took sometime for Nice to group together and start believing in themselves and when the team started to gel together it was November and this is when Dante experienced the best period of his season.

He scored points in 6 consecutive games earning a massive 28 points as Nice went on a great run starting at Bordeaux and ending with a 0-0 result against Angers in December.

Dante Costa’s best game where he earned the most points was against Montpellier in April where Nice only won 1-0. But it was an all round game from the Brazilian who scored a goal, the only one for his season and also kept a clean sheet to earn 9 points.

The last match of the season was the local derby in which Nice beat Monaco 2-0 which earned Dante another 5 points. Indeed the defender had a decent consistent season overall if not spectacular, but for his age and being coached by a new manager this was an impressive display over the season.

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Top Ligue 1 Strikers in 2018/19: Neymar

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Several books could be written on Neymar’s season with PSG, and this was supposed to be the season that Neymar helped the French champions to the Champions League trophy, the one the club are really after. What happened was that Neymar replicated last season and missed key games as the league ran down. It was a frustrating season for Neymar even if PSG did end up winning the Ligue 1 title again.

Most of this frustration was off the pitch. The Brazilian’s niggling injuries didn’t help- he played just 17 league games this season. Then he was outspoken about UEFA when Manchester United arguably did get the run of the luck when they dumped out PSG in Paris, he swore on social media and was handed with a 3 game ban. This means that whoever he is playing for next season he won’t play in 50% of the group games.

Then Neymar was involved with a Rennes fan after Rennes had upset PSG and won the Coupe de France. He appeared to hit the fan and after returning from injury he was suspended for another 3 games meaning that he didn’t even finish the season off properly with the club.

This was the nightmare season for Neymar in many ways, and yet he was still good enough to basically play half a season and finish as the 4th best striker in Ligue 1. He finished the season with 72 points and was able to score an incredible 15 goals from his 17 games and assisted in a further 7 goals. When he played PSG kept 6 clean sheets and no matter his temperament off the field on it he was almost impeccable receiving only 2 yellow cards.

What is remarkable about Neymar’s season is that the first 13 games that he played he always earned points. His best personal game was against Guingamp at the beginning of 2019 when PSG ran riot and won 9-0. Neymar helped himself to 2 goals and assisted in another in a very easy win.

On two occasions he earned zero points but he never finished a game this past season on minus points. His last contribution was against Angers on May 11th when PSG won 2-1 and he scored a goal and assisted in the other.

The question is, was that Neymar’s last game for PSG? It is no secret that the Brazilian wants away and wants to re-join Barcelona again for next season. Could PSG complain after spending over 200m euros on him, because they would make a profit on the player if they did sell him.

Despite some negative aspects surrounding Neymar, his showmanship and hard work rate have still been held high in France and it is difficult to judge a striker that scores goals. He has played 37 games in the league over two seasons and scored 34 goals. Injuries aside he has been one of the best players to grace the game in Ligue 1 in recent history.

What does the future hold? This summer will turn into a Neymar saga it appears.

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