Despite a summer of discontent Neymar proves he is one of the best players in world football

Neymar was back at the weekend for PSG after a summer trying to leave the French champions. The Brazilian could not force a move and the teams he wanted to move to in Barcelona and Real Madrid couldn’t afford him anyway. Under intense pressure to do well Neymar showed his class when he really had to and scored the winner against Strasbourg.

This wasn’t just any type of goal, this was a goal sent from the heavens that changed all of the sports headlines the world over because this game looked like it would end 0-0. In the final minute with PSG heading for a disappointing draw at home, Neymar latched onto a cross, and bicycle kick style shot for goal, the ball thundered in the net and the roar from the fans could be heard outside Paris.

At first Neymar did not celebrate then buoyed by his team mates he couldn’t resist but not too, the villain in this piece had suddenly turned to the hero.

What PSG’s ultra fans thought of that will be interesting. They put out a statement a few days ago saying that Neymar had disrespected the club and that it would take a long time to earn Neymar’s trust back. Well in a matter of seconds he went a long way to doing that.

Criticism is thrown at Neymar, the way he acts, the way he goes tumbling down and he has been wrong in trying to force a move out of Paris this summer. But one thing that can’t be taken from the Brazilian is just how supremely talented he is, when you see goals like he scored at the weekend then you know he is amongst the worlds best footballers- that’s what paying 200m euros does to a team and that’s why PSG were so stubborn in not wanting to sell him, no one could blame the club for that, when you see what Neymar can produce.

Something says that following this vital win and vital goal in such a vital game that Neymar’s forgiveness will be accepted much quicker from the die hard fans. Whilst some fans of ultra groups take everything within football too seriously, they did have a point, given that it should be an honour to play for PSG, and Neymar does need some making up to do. At the weekend he did that in the best possible fashion and after a summer of discontent, Neymar could have a very memorable season ahead of him, if that is what he so desires.

 

 

Ruthless PSG keep Neymar and now will go after the Ligue 1 title and Champions League

The transfer saga of Neymar finally ended on September 2nd when the extended European transfer window closed. And Neymar in the end has stayed at PSG, which was surprising news.

The Braziian had been a wantaway star for the past 3 months but a deal could not be secured between his suitors which were his former club Barcelona and Real Madrid. Though it is thought that Neymar’s preferred choice would have been Barca, well he ended up with none of them, the guest at a wedding how ends up single. What now for Neymar?

PSG will expect their player back after the international break where Neymar could play two friendlies, and they need him. The club have injuries to strikers Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappe with Mbappe out for 4 weeks. Neymar needs to step in and hit the ground running and that means goals. How will fans react to Neymar still being in the team? True you’d want such a player, but he has talked only about wanting to leave the club. Once he starts scoring goals and winning games he will probably be invited back into the hearts of the fans, but long time loyal ones will be a little suspect of the player and he will have to earn their respect.

As for Neymar’s future, it’s very possible he could still leave in January, although that would mean he wouldn’t be able to play in the latter half of the Champions League. We must remember here is a player that doesn’t want to be in Paris, that reportedly wanted to pay 20m euros to help a deal go through. So his future with the French champions is still uncertain.

What is certain is PSG have been stubborn and ruthless over Neymar’s transfer, it’s something that you can’t blame them for. Why lose out financially on a player that cost you over 200m euros just a couple of seasons ago? At the same time you could argue that Neymar being in the club had become toxic, his friendship at least with Mbappe looks damaged. Again wins and goals could well help repair that.

Despite PSG having to face a less than happy beginning to the season they are still top of the league with 9 points and lead on goal difference from Rennes, Nice and Angers, and they will go after the league again. The step up in the Champions League is also required and out of all of the players coming in this summer one has to be impressed by their last minute loan signing of Mauro Icardi from Inter Milan. Icardi regularly gets 20 goals a season and he should be a success in France.

PSG may have already lost a game, and been in the press for the wrong reasons, but make no mistake every team in France should be worried, because they look stronger than ever.

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Inter send Icardi to PSG

Even though it dragged until the final day of the transfer market, the Mauro Icardi saga had a rather satisfying ending for everybody involved, at least for the time being, while its conclusion could come next summer. On Monday, Inter agreed to loan him to PSG with a hefty option to buy for a total price tag of €70M.

The striker has been at odds with the management for the better part of the calendar year and was stripped of the captaincy in February as result of tumultuous negotiation to extend the contract. He was not called up for six weeks after that while supposedly dealing with a knee injury and a limited role in the remaining portion of the season.

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Why PSG are to blame for Neymar’s transfer saga

The Neymar transfer saga keeps on raging on and it is threatening to undermine PSG’s season, the champions have already lost one game and further more could happen until the team know exactly what is happnening with the Brazilian.

Tensions were brought to a head when in the curtain raiser of the season PSG beat Rennes in the cup competition, league champions who meet the cup winners and Neymar who didn’t play in the game went to be part of the photo celebrations but was pushed out of the photo by Kylian Mbappe, who now sees himself as PSG’s main player.

So Neymar has been very distant, some claim him to be injured that is the offical story, but let’s be honest, coach Thomas Tuchel is not going to select someone whose mind is clearly elsewhere.

It is clear that Neymar will never play for PSG again, so what is the delay all about? The obvious answer would be that PSG want a decent deal, after all they paid over 200m euros for him. The fact is that PSG should simply be looking for a long term deal and demand those terms. Players can be involved but they should be able to get back the money they invested. If it takes Barcelona or Real Madrid four or five years to finish up payments then so be it, PSG are not clamouring for money, and they don’t need it. So why not be able to wait for some payments, and get rid of the problem which is Neymar.

The saga of Neymar is not then Barcelona or Real Madrid’s fault to find the price tag and or players to swap, its solely down to PSG- Neymar has never wanted to be there, and getting him in the first place was the biggest mistake. PSG would still have won the league and cups they have entered, and so all in all his acquistions save for shirt sales and fan hype seems unfounded.

Now that PSG have made the mistake in getting Neymar, they need to sell him, the whole situation has made little sense. Except that the deal you want you can’t have now, but later it will work out. In being stubborn with a player they should never have bought they are making it toxic for the club and throughtout this summer PSG have been appearing in the press for all the wrong reasons. This one looks like it will drag until the deathly hours when the window finally closes on September 2nd. It couldn’t come quick enough.

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Brilliant Lyon emerge as the team to stop PSG in Ligue 1

Well what a start to the Ligue 1 season it has been for Lyon, who have won their opening two games of the season. But what has caught the attention is the way they are winning their games.

On the opening day of the season they made light work of Monaco playing them away from home they ran out 3-0 winners. Then yesterday they played their first game at home and sent their supporters to their homes happy beating Angers 6-0. It means that Lyon have secured first position and have scored 9 goals from two games and have yet to concede. Could there be any better start to a season?

What has made this one special is that the club have had so much change during the summer. First long time coach Bruno Genesio  left his position and was replaced by Sylvinho taking in his first managerial job. Arsenal fans will remember Sylvinho fondly with his time spent at the club in the 2000s.

Quality players have been sold on such as Tanguy Ndombele who went to Tottenham and Nebil Fekir who was sold to Real Betis, this has raised nearly 100m euros for the club. But Lyon haven’t just sat around and it was inevitable that they were going to buy players. In came Jeff Reine-Adelaide from Angers for 22m euros, Joachim Andersen from Serie A outfit Sampdoria for 21m euros and Thiago Mendes from Lille who had performed so well last season for 19.8m euros. And so from the sale of Tanguy Ndombele Lyon were able to bring in 3 fresh and quality players. Right now it is paying dividends.

Memphis Depay and Moussa Dembele scored two goals apiece and it just shows that there are goals all over the pitch for this Lyon side. The real surprise has been the impact that Sylvinho has had on the team especially with his lack of management experience. This season was always going to be a turning point of sorts for the club, but it seems for now to be turning in the right direction.

With PSG’s shock loss, Lyon are top of the table though we shouldn’t get too carried away after just two games it is the clubs application, confidence and goals which has lit up the league in its earliest of stages.

In the next month Lyon will face some tough competition having to play the likes of Montpellier and PSG, and by the end of September we will have a clearer picture if Lyon will be a genuine threat to PSG’s dominance over Ligue 1. For now they certainly are.

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Manchester United are out of the equation – so where do Lazio now stand with Sergej Milinkovic-Savic?

If there’s one thing Lazio fans are used to by now, it’s hearing that Sergej Milinkovic-Savic is on the verge of moving to a wealthier rival.

From the moment the Serbian first started making waves in Serie A, newspapers have told of approaches from Real Madrid, Juventus, Inter Milan, PSG, AC Milan, Manchester City, Tottenham and Chelsea to name a few.

The capital club resisted any interest, but this summer things changed. And one thing’s for sure: the sound of the Premier League transfer window sliding gently shut on Thursday was music to the ears of the Aquile faithful. Continue reading

Nicolas Pepe signing can change Arsenal’s fortunes

Arsenal have surprised the football world by splashing the cash and signing forward Nicolas Pepe from Lille for a cool £72m, and the player has all of the tools to put the Gunners back on the map again.

The surprise element comes in different packages for Arsenal who have become famous for not spending over the odds on a player and also because they are a club who love to haggle for a price. But in Pepe’s case that was non existent and the deal was seemingly one of the smoothest the club have made in years. They enquired, they offered the money and terms and the player is now wearing the famous red shirt.

Arsenal only had to fight off Napoli for his signature in the end but that shouldn’t deter from how good Pepe is and the club have signed a world class player. Pepe had an excellent season at Lille where he scored 22 goals in 38 games but that only tells one side of the story. His goals, commitment and excellent play helped Lille finish runners up to PSG and qualify for the Champions League. He also made PSG run ragged and scored a few goals when Lille thrashed the eventual Ligue 1 champions 5-1 a few months ago.

Pepe has that quality about him where you feel at 24 he has matured and has the potential to become a world class player. Up until his signing it was looking like a quiet period for a club the size of Arsenal who had only brought in some loans and splashed out on Gabriel Martinelli for £6m, a Brazilian forward, unproven but young but comes without the wow factor- in Pepe they now have that.

But here is the deal clincher- he will almost certainly be paired up front with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who was excellent last season in finishing as the Premier League joint top goal scorer with 22 goals. Now can you imagine the potential of both of these players together? Arsenal suddenly have arguably the deadliest strike force in the league. What this means for Alexandre Lacazette is anyone’s guess, but if these two hit it off then Lacazette’s career with the Gunners could well be coming to an end.

As for the long suffering Arsenal fans this could finally be the signing that signals a positive change at the club. While they are too far off from league titles, a good league run, and  a cup run and or win is certainly on the cards as the club try and get back into the Champions League where they will feel they belong. Roll on next season.

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

 

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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