What now for PSG star Neymar after the fall out of Covid-19 has hit football?

Neymar has returned to Paris for training and played on a football pitch for the first time in 3 months. And seeing images of him brings up the story of what exactly will happen to Neymar post Covid-19?

Had the pandemic never happened many people believe that this was going to be Neymar’s last season with PSG. It was inevitable that after he would rejoin Barcelona. There have been many rumours that the Brazilian is craving to go back to his former job and hook up with the likes of Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann.

Whilst Neymar has been a success at PSG he has also missed some key games due to injury and there is a feeling of unfinished business in Paris. After all PSG didn’t make Neymar the world’s most expensive player at over 200 million euros just to win a series of Ligue 1 titles? they were doing that well before he joined.

For PSG recruiting Neymar, much like what Juventus have done with Cristiano Ronaldo was supposed to be the key, the final puzzle and the missing link in winning the Champions League. In that PSG have been unlucky given Neymar’s usual injury flare ups have come at a time when they have been playing in the quarter finals of the competition only to be missing him and getting dumped out of it.

This year seems very different. Many expected Borussia Dortmund to get the better of PSG, not so and PSG were able to knock the German team out and reach the last 8 of the competition. Now all eyes are on PSG, and yet that is when the Covid-19 really struck.

The good news is that football is back and the Champions League will resume in Lisbon, with all games played there in August. And what about PSG and Neymar, they have had lots of time off, can Neymar provide PSG with what they really want and need? What a send off it would be, if Neymar is to leave the club. But no win and he might find himself playing another season in Paris. Win and it is possible to think that PSG and Barcelona could come to an arrangement.

Forget about Barcelona breaking the bank to get him, that won’t happen. And football will be financially affected for years. True big money purchases are still going to be made between the big clubs, but we can and should expect transfers to drop significantly.

Right now Neymar seems a happy person and in a happy frame of mind, that couldn’t be said at the beginning of the season. What we do know is that the next two months will be dedicated to PSG. He has two cup finals to play and then the return of the Champions League- will the fire still be in his eyes?

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French Cup finals to go ahead and fans will be present as Ligue 1 announces new season details

Out of all the major European leagues only the French Ligue 1 was cancelled due to Coronavirus. The season had to end abruptly as it was agreed upon that it could not be completed in time. This said even though the Premier League, Bundesliga, La Liga and Serie A have found a way.

So it will be to everyone’s surprise to see that the French football federation in line with government plans have announced that fans will be allowed to watch the two French cup finals that will take place in July.

As it stands fans will be allowed to any sporting event in France from July 11th, the maximum will be 5,000.

The irony of course is how the league season was ended so quickly whilst other major leagues tried to work through the obstacles to get their seasons finished- and some fans in France may feel rightly annoyed by that given that the cup finals- the Coupe de France and the Coupe de la Ligue (which is the final one to take place) will not only be played but played with some fans.

The idea in France is to start small at 5,000 in stadiums that hold at least 50,000, so 10% capacity. If that goes well there will be another review in August. The new French Ligue 1 season is due to kick off on August 22nd, which would be at least four weeks before England, Spain, Italy and Germany who will have to postpone the new season as their seasons won’t end until late July.

With the Champions League due to take place in the month of August this could mean that PSG won’t play a game until September if they go far in the competition.

The FFF will be hoping to increase capacity by 10% each month, if that is a success then stadums could be full again in France by March 2021. Though many games only averaged between 60-70% full so everything could be back to normal in Ligue 1 much sooner.

The news is certainly a twist given France’s direct approach to the pandemic, but certain fans will be very happy by it- at least the ones that get to attend the cup finals.

In the Coupe de France final PSG will play Saint Etienne and in the Coupe de la Ligue final PSG will play Lyon. Both matches are scheduled to take place at the Stade de France in Paris which holds 80,000 fans, so 5,000 would still feel very empty.

Certainly if PSG were to win both games it would give the club a nice boost and another two trophies. The dates for the finals are still being arranged but look likely to take place sometime in July.

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Could Icardi’s permanent PSG move mean Neymar is leaving for Barcelona?

It was to no one’s surprise that French league champions PSG decided to sign Mauro Icardi on a permanent deal in the last few days. Icardi will now join PSG as a full time member after the transfer went through for €50m. That looks like a bargain for PSG who before the Covid-19 pandemic were looking at €70m to get the players services.

Icardi has signed up to play in Paris until 2024 and the deal was a no-brainer given how the Italian had fared over the course of this season when brought in on loan. Icardi slipped right into the team and with Neymar and Kylian Mbappe missing chunks of games through injury Icardi stepped up and never looked out of the place in the team. In the league alone Icardi scored 12 goals from just 20 games and overall in all competitions he was able to find the back of the net 20 times from just 31 games. At only 27 Icardi has the best years of his football career ahead of him, and whilst this will be a loss to Inter it is a huge gain for PSG.

Though with the pandemic and football clubs losing millions over the last few months financially the deal to let Icardi leave the San Siro does make sense, and it is probably one that the Inter fans will be able to accept and understand.

As for PSG they now have 3 full time golden strikers in Icardi, Neymar and Mbappe but with them agreeing to take on Icardi full time the old story of Neymar leaving will surely rise once again. It does feel that Neymar’s return to Barcelona has been on the cards the very minute he signed a surprise deal at the time to join PSG which of course broke the transfer record and is still the highest at a reported €220m. That record looks like it will remain intact for some time after the pandemic has affected everyone from a financial standpoint.

Money is certainly a problem right now in football and huge transfers just don’t seem feasible. So if Neymar is to rejoin Barcelona one could suspect a few players swaps, a small ‘down payment’ fee and perhaps an initial loan deal back. At the end of the day PSG has the squad to win the next few French league titles and certainly next season will be the big odds on favourites, so in all honesty do they really need Neymar, who could well be dragging his feet next season?

Neymar has been brilliant for the club so far though has come up a little short in helping them in Europe and keeps getting niggling injuries. His departure would feel a little hollow looking at his achievements, but he has scored many goals and inspired so many extra points for the club, despite some of the circus that has surrounded him little can doubt his natural ability.

Whilst Ligue 1 ended early the Champions League has not and that is set to resume in August with PSG still in the competition- could Neymar take the club all the way and end his career at PSG on a high? That will be the question on everyone’s minds in Paris as it looks more and more inevitable that he will leave the club sooner rather than later.

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Fan Zone: Giuseppe is back with focus on Juve’s transfers & European chances

Giuseppe Bognanni is back for the second segment of the Q&A discussing everything Juventus from club legends in the previous part to the Bianconeri’s transfer targets as well as European dream in the section below.  Feel free to share your opinion and ask us any questions you may have on Juve’s potential European run as well as the upcoming transfer campaign by connecting with us on Twitter @RamiSoufi and @BognanniG.

1) Juve built a reputation signing players for free. Who could be the next bargain signing?

How about Paul Pogba in July 2021? That’ll be a funny scenario. A full circle for a player Juve signed for free (only a small fee was paid per rules) several years ago. Just imagine Juve signing Pogba for free twice and both times from Manchester United! That would be hilarious!

Another possible name could be PSG’s Thomas Meunier. He is a useful player since the right-back sport is a weak one. No doubt Juan Cuadrado has given his best as a makeshift right-back but still it should be one of Juve’s priorities this summer transfer campaign to sign a full-back.

2) Do you rate Gabriel Jesus? He has decent stats despite mostly being used as a substitute. Would you sign Jesus or prefer to pick Harry Kane?  

Both are quality players. It is difficult to choose between them as their game is very different. They bring different qualities to a team. With Douglas Costa leaving or consistently injured, we need to add a player who has the skills and technique to create something out of nothing. I think Gabriel would be a nice addition.

3) What’s your take on BVB’s Erling Haaland? Would you sign Haaland, or Mauro Icardi? Would you sign Barcelona’s Arthur or Lazio’s Milinkovic-Savic? And who’d you pick from BVB’s Achraf Hakimi and Leicester’s Ricardo Pereira? 

I wanted Juve to sign Icardi before they signed Gonzalo Higuain from Napoli. That’s how much I wanted Mauro at Juve as I believe the guy is strong, still young and a proven scorer. Still, Haaland is an upgrade on Icardi with at least 8 years more in the game than the current PSG striker. I go with the young BVB man.

For Juve’s midfield, I would love to see Pogba, Rodrigo Bentancur and Arthur holding the fort and combining together. If this is not possible then I’d choose Lazio’s Sergej Milinkovic-Savic fondly known as SMS. He knows Serie A, is just 25-years-old and still has tremendous potential. So I am going with SMS.

For the right-back spot, I think it’s impossible at the moment but I’d go with BVB’s Hakimi- he is reportedly heading back to Real Madrid. If I must pick one position to improve then considering Higuain is leaving, we need a true 9. Out of the 6 players discussed above, and this is going to shock many since Juve’s midfield is weak but I would still invest in Haaland.

4) Will Juve overturn the result against Lyon? How confident are you?

Before the stop I was not confident at all. The Lyon game was awful and despite the quality game win against Inter, I’m not sure Juve was mentally strong enough to win.

Today it’s difficult to predict any result. France stopped Ligue 1 what means Lyon will not play any official game before the return match against Juve. It is hard to predict.

5) One team you want Juve to avoid meeting in the knock-out stages of the Champions League?

Juve and the Champions League is a crazy love-hate relationship. Juve were able to beat Barcelona and Real Madrid in the knock-outs in the past few years but not in the final! Something about playing a single-match to determine the trophy winner I guess.

Juve lost to a young Ajax team last season- that’s how unpredictable this Bianconeri side is. I would for sure like to avoid Atalanta. They know Juve, they are fast and have nothing to lose. Also, it would pain me a lot to eliminate them before the final because they have been this season’s true Cinderella story in the Europe.

6) Which team would you like Juve to avoid playing in the Champions League final?

Juve have lost 7 out of 9 finals. It’s not the opponent that scares me. It’s Juve and the mental barrier the squad must overcome- not just the psychological aspect for the current players but also the history of the club failing in one final after another. It’ll depend on how we enter the pitch. If we are confident enough we can beat any opponent.

Premier League, Bundesliga or La Liga- what league is likely to restart first after Coronavirus

No one could have predicted the impact of the Coronavirus and what it has caused in the world. There has been a dramatic shift and life simply is not as we have known it for some time. This of course has affected world football, with almost all football grinding to a halt.

In Europe the Eredivise, the top league in the Netherlands was stopped with immediate effect. With the league so close, the authorities had no choice but to declare it null and void. The Belgian league also cancelled the season. Eyebrows were really raised though when the French Ligue 1 considered by many the 5th strongest league in Europe stopped the season.

Though in France they rightly gave the league title to PSG who were running away with it anyway and had a 12 point lead at the top and an extra game to play. Amiens and Toulouse were relegated. Both clubs may well go through the courts and seek compensation. But whilst Amiens have a point given that they were 7 points from safety with 30 points left, surely bottom club Toulouse did not. Were they really going to pull off a miracle and escape relegation having just earned 13 points this season? They would have needed to virtually win every game of the 10 they had left as they were 17 points behind at the time the virus hit. One must remember that the club have won just 3 games all season.

Now all attention is focused on the 3 big leagues. In Italy though football could return sometime in June, but like England the country has been hit with the most deaths in Europe and that is still in the balance. Currently Juventus lead Serie A by one point over Lazio, who themselves have had a terrific season.

La Liga and the Bundesliga have been pushing for a return. Especially in Germany. But some players for Cologne have just been declared to have the Covid-19 virus and that could now be in jeopardy. There is a real push though to have the Bundesliga and La Liga kick started by early June.

In truth Germany has not been affected as bad as Spain and England with the virus, but the worry will be if a second wave strikes. For now all cards are on the table but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Bundesliga restart first from the major leagues in Europe.

Of course all football will be played behind closed doors and that could well be the case for the rest of 2020. As for the Premier League decisions seem to change daily. Ultimately it will be down to the players though. And the feeling one gets is that players are less than happy to return to football.

Behind closed doors means no fans of course but there is still the problem of how do you test at least 500 people? Because it would take roughly that figure to set up a Premier League game once you account for players, squads, security, police, extra stewards because of fans congregating near the stadiums and media. It all adds up. Then there is the ambulances needed at each game- would it be justifiable to have ambulances at a game of football when they could be needed elsewhere?

This situation will go on, and we should see some developments later this month. For now the first two weeks of June are being pencilled in for a European football return.

 

French Ligue 1 season is cancelled- what happens next?

The French Ligue 1 season has been ended by French Prime Minister Edouard Phillippe.

The announcement means an immediate end to the season due to the Coronavirus pandemic, however the story doesn’t end there. The problem now for the French Football Federation is what to do next? There seems to be three choices which would be to declare the season null and void, to end the league as how it stands now or to count wins only and revise the table.

As far as winning the league there was only going to be one winner this season in PSG. The club are 12 points clear and with a game in hand over 2nd place with 11 games to play. It’s obvious that they were never going to get caught and the club will feel harshly done by if they are not awarded the league title.

Marseille could be left frustrated if the season is null and void. The club have had their best season in  years at last showing good consistency and are in 2nd place with 56 points and 6 points clear of 3rd. Indeed they are 7 points clear of not playing in the Champions League next season and they did look almost assured of being part of Europe’s elite club for the season after, now that is in the balance.

Rennes had won 15 games this season to put them in 3rd place and as it stands they would be entered into the qualifying stages for the Champions League. Though in 4th place is Lille who are just 1 point behind Rennes and they would feel very hard done by considering they had 10 games to make up 1 point.

Historical club Reims were in search of a long over due return to Europe too as they looked on course for a Europa League finish.

As for relegation Toulouse would certainly benefit with a null and void decision given that they have amassed only 13 points this season and are 10 points behind 19th placed Amiens- they were certainties to go down. Amiens were struggling too on 23 points and had fallen 7 points behind from safety.

The tricky part of the league if is declared by current standings is that Nimes are in 18th place with 27 points. Finishing here isn’t relegation but usually means a play-off with the team finishing in 3rd place in Ligue 2. So when would that play-off game take place?

Over the next few days there are many things to discuss, and what would be the fairest option should be put on the table. Also it is worth noting that Ligue 2 has also been stopped, simply put there will be no professional football in France until September.

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Five greatest football clubs of the past decade starting 2010

As football understandably lays low for a while let’s take a look at the most successful club sides in Europe’s top leagues over the past decade.

There are different ways of doing so, points gained for example in a league, trophies won, games won, etc. This list will look at the trophies won for the most successful teams starting from 2009/10 season until the 2018/19 season, to determine which team has been the most successful.

You may have a few contenders but may also be surprised by some teams on the list, so is the club you think is the best the number 1 on this list?

Points system: Champions League = 12pts, League title = 10pts, Europa League = 8pts, Cups= 5pts, all other cups =2pts

5th: Juventus 112 pts

After being forcefully relegated in 2006, Juventus have made up for that during the past decade in Serie A winning 8 league titles in what could be described as a total domination. They have added some domestic cups too but they have failed to win the big prize in the shape of the Champions League since 1996. They will be hedging their bets that Ronaldo can finally deliver that missing piece of silverware. Still they are far and away the most successful team in Italy. Even though Inter Milan were the only Italian team to win the Champions League in the 2010s, Inter only finished our ranking with 30 points!

4th: Real Madrid 116 pts

Real Madrid were amazing in the 2010s which included winning an incredible 4 Champions League and winning 3 of those in a row. That had not been achieved since Bayern Munich in the 70s! So it was odd that Madrid sit only in 4th place and only four points above Juventus. The reason is that for all of their European glory they haven’t actuallly won many domestic trophies in the 2010s. True they still scooped up two league titles, but for their standards you take out what they achieved in Europe and you almost get the feeling of could have done better.

3rd: PSG 121 pts

Despite PSG having no wins in Europe they have dominated Ligue 1 in France winning every title since 2012 except one where Monaco surprised them. They have won countless domestic cups after they were bought in the earlier part of the decade and have dominated the league ever since. They also have an abundance of very good players who are genuinely eyeing winning this years Champions League.

2nd: Bayern Munich 140 pts

Bayern did reach 2 Champions League finals and after losing on penalties, at home to Chelsea they made up for it the year after. They have dominated the league title in Germany winning every year except one and scooped up a few domestic cups also. For a club their size they would like to add more European trophies of course but Bayern still come out as the 2nd most successful club in European football of the past decade despite this.

1st: Barcelona 150 pts

Barcelona may have played second fiddle to their rivals Real Madrid in Europe in the 2010s. But they still won 2 Champions Leagues. They also have won 7 La Liga titles which is impressive given how they have had to fend off not just Real but also Atletico Madrid who enjoyed one of their most successful decades in the history of the club. Barca fronted by Lionel Messi one of the greats of the game have been the best team in Europe trophy wise finishing with over double the points of the most successful English team which goes to Manchester City.

Notable mentions: Manchester City 71 pts, Chelsea 68, Manchester United 51, Atletico Madrid 42, Inter Milan 30.

 

 

 

PSG win 7 goal thriller as Rennes move closer to Marseille

If there is one thing that seems to be certain with PSG it is entertainment and following their 4-4 draw at Amiens last weekend the club scored another 4 goals, except they won this time beating Bordeaux 4-3.

No one really expected such a fight from Bordeaux who showed a lot of character in not just coming to Paris in order to defend. PSG had gone a goal down but veteran striker Edinson Cavani soon equalised. The star of the team this past weekend though was Marquinhos who can sometimes be seen as the forgotten man, but he scored two goals and Kylian Mbappe got the winner in a fantastic energised game.

But there would still be a negative to take from the match as Neymar received two yellow cards and was sent off in the very final moments of the game and now he will miss the trip to Dijon. However PSG have pulled clear at the top by 13 points, and that was helped as Marseille lost 3-1 at home to Nantes. It was the clubs first defeat in over 15 games and it wasn’t a good performance which was capped off by Alvaro scoring an own goal.

Marseille losing meant that Rennes took full advantage and their 2-1 home win over Nimes took them to within 8 points of 2nd place. M’Baye Niang scored both of Rennes’ goals as his good form continues. Rennes needed to win because Lille also picked up 3 points in 4th place with their victory over Toulouse. Toulouse who are rock bottom were never given a chance and this was a match where Lille ran out comfortable 3-0 winners. Loic Remy scored a brace and the club have won 4 from their last five games, as they chase down 3rd position.

Monaco’s winning run came to an end but at least they didn’t lose and instead they drew 1-1 away to Dijon. Lyon won their first game in almost a month by beating Metz away 2-0 and that was seen as a very good result for the club as Metz had picked up in form lately even in the bottom half of the table. But the club are still behind Strasbourg who were involved a dour 0-0 draw against Amiens- the same Amiens who had put four goals past PSG, but that is football.

Reims have lost just one match in their past five and they got a decent 1-1 draw away to Saint Etienne and are in 8th place. They were losing 1-0 and heading for defeat until they were rewarded a penalty in the final minute which Boulaye Dia scored for the away side.

Reims European hopes are still alive even though they are drawing too many games and the reason for that is how close the league still is with only 12 games left to play. The club are in 8th and yet are only seven points behind 3rd place, so there really is all to play for.

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Ligue 1: Player of the Week: Gael Kakuta

There were quite a few players who finished with 7 points earned in Ligue 1 at the weekend. But after thought the player of the week has gone to Gael Kakuta.

Kakuta was involved in one of the best games of the season in Ligue 1 as his team Amiens who are struggling with relegation drew 4-4 against the champions PSG in an emotional rollercoaster ride, that every fan would want to relive again and again.

For Amiens it was a valuable point earned although they could still go down but at times it looked like they would get all three points as they raced into a 3-0 lead.

Whilst Kakuta didn’t score any goals, he was a real handful the whole game and was seen in attack, in midfield and helping out in defence as PSG came back into the game in the second half. But what Kakuta really did was provide his service. That started as early as the 5th minute when he set up Sehrou Guirassy to put Amiens in the lead, and the stadium went wild.

With Amiens 2-0 up, Kakuta also assisted in the 3rd goal, passing to Fousseni Diabate just at the pivotal time and that put Amiens 3-0 up and seemingly that was the game over. As we all know PSG pulled back and then went 4-3 up, before Guirassy became the hero in the final minute and made it 4-4, so in the end this draw would have felt like a win in some respects for the club.

As for Kakuta he has 22 points in the fantasy Ligue 1 rankings so far and is the 2nd best Amiens player of the season. He is just 6 points behind Guirassy. Kakuta is valued at 7m and is a regular started for the club playing 20 games so far from the first whistle.

The midfielder has scored 2 goals and has assisted in a further 5 goals, making his contribution to Amiens goals this season stand at 7. With the club scoring 29 goals in total that means Kakuta has contributed to almost 25% of their goals, which is a good return just for one player.  He has helped the club also keep 4 clean sheets but has also been booked 4 times this season although he hasn’t been sent off yet.

Amiens still look likely to go down and the truth is Kakuta is just too good for Ligue 2 football and if the club are relegated one could suspect that Amiens would be forced to sell him.This weekend they will play 7th placed Strasbourg away.

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PSG held in 4-4 thriller as Monaco make a move into the top 5

There was no doubt about it that the game of the weekend in Ligue 1 was between  PSG and Amiens. It was simply an incredible match that ended in a scoreline that nobody would have predicted: 4-4.

Of course PSG did rest some players namely Kylian Mbappe as Thomas Tuchel’s side have their crucial Champions League match to play against Borussia Dortmund in midweek. But even taking that into account it was an incredible start from Amiens who are in 19th place. The club went 3-0 up within 40 minutes and the home fans simply could not believe what they were witnessing. This was the same Amiens who had won just 3 games at home this season and scored just 13 before the game, now they had 3 in one match.

Serhou Guirassy opened the scoring after just five minutes to make Amiens intent very clear. Perhaps they had sniffed blood and realised that one eye for PSG would be on their Champions League game and that this was the perfect time to face the current French champions. Gael Kakuta made it 2-0 shortly afterwards and then Fousseni Diabate sent the stadium out of control with the third goal. How many teams come back from this situation and it seemed like the home fans were celebrating a rare victory over the mighty PSG who had lost just 3 games all season.

But this is still PSG, and even though some stars were rested they have an almighty talented team. Ander Herrera scored just before half time to make it 3-1 and there was a little self doubt at that point that had crept in.

In the 2nd half PSG dominated the game and Tanguy Kouassi broke home fans hearts with 2 goals in five minutes and now Amiens were hanging on from a cliff that they thought they had just conquered. With 16 minutes to go Mauro Icardi put PSG in the lead to make it 4-3 and PSG looked to have made one of the great comebacks and earn yet another three points. But there would be some joy for the home crowd when in the very final minute the man who had opened the scoring finished it and Guirassy scored his 2nd to send the stadium wild and the final score ended an incredible 4-4.

Amiens are 19th and 6 points from safety and it looks like the best the club can hope for would be the play-offs. But then again if they can put in consistent performances like they did at the weekend could they make one of the very special comebacks in Ligue 1 history themselves?

It was a very good weekend for 2nd placed Marseille who beat Lille 2-1 away from home, a very hard ground to go to. Not only did PSG drop points which means that Marseille have shortened the gap to 10 points but Rennes also lost which means they have an 11 point safety net and the club are almost guaranteed 2nd spot now which means automatic qualification for next seasons Champions League, job, almost achieved one would suspect.

Rennes lost at Reims 1-0 and the club have now gone their last 3 matches without a win, but they somehow stay in 3rd place with 41 points. With Lille losing too it means that Monaco have shortened the gap and they made  a big splash into 5th place after beating Montpellier 1-0. It was the club’s 3rd win in a row and Islam Slimani scored again. The pressure now looks off coach Robert Moreno and the club have climbed onto 38 points and are just three points from 3rd place. It has been quite a season for the club so far but it could end up on a positive note.

Strasbourg’s good form continued as they drew 1-1 away to Lyon to keep 7th place and Reims are back into the top 8 with a 1-0 win over Rennes. A penalty by El Toure settled the game.

European spots are still up for grabs in Ligue 1 and it is interesting to see how close the league has been this year. Marseille also will not give up on a league title even if it does seem unlikely, but if PSG keep progressing in the Champions League whose to say that they will lose some focus in the league? You never quite know in football.

Prove you have what it takes to challenge the best French Fantasy Football managers here www.fantasyligue1.com