Neymar's greatest challenge is raising his game in the comforts of PSG

Sport360's James Piercy on the real challenge facing Neymar after signing from Barcelona

James Piercy
by James Piercy
5th August 2017

article:5th August 2017

Neymar poses with his new No10 PSG shirt
Neymar poses with his new No10 PSG shirt

There is satire to Neymar potentially making his Ligue 1 bow against Amiens.

The club based in the north of France will be making their own debut, arguably of greater significance, as they play in the French top flight for the first time.


Christophe Pelissier’s collection of free transfers and academy players are up against a starting XI which cost in excess of €450m (Dh1.9bn). President Bernard Joannin admits, “a soccer game, is a soccer game” and while Amiens may take to the field as equals, the gulf in resources for teams in the same division is almost beyond comprehension.

It’s been magnified by the Neymar acquisition but, barring Monaco’s brief season in 2013/14 of trying to match PSG euro for euro, Les Parisians have been in a league of their own since QSI first pitched up in the French capital in 2011.

Their six seasons of investment into the club have been book-ended by near-miraculous title victories for Montpellier and Monaco, but four league championships and six Coupe de France and Coupe de la Ligues is a fair haul. But the feeling is that PSG have under-performed, particularly in the Champions League where the quarter-finals is the furthest they have travelled in Europe.

Neymar may be a political tool, a commercial vehicle, a way of proving PSG’s relevance to the world, but he is an exceptional footballer and one who will, above all, be tasked with improving this record.

Given Monaco’s squad upheaval and Nice, Marseille, Lyon and Lille just not of a similar standard – for a multitude of reasons but essentially due to finance – the chances are PSG will win Ligue 1, with or without the Brazilian.

A world record €222m has not been spent on Neymar to score hat-tricks against Amiens, Guingamp and Toulouse (PSG’s first three league fixtures), it’s for nights like March 8 when the Brazilian inspired Barcelona to a 6-1 win over the Parisians, a match that we now know proved pivotal in fashioning the 25-year-old’s future.

During his press conference, he was pushed on what success in Paris would mean for him, his obvious answer was the Champions League amid talk of new challenges, projects and ambition. But like the other financial powerhouse who have come to hold a near-monopoly on domestic matters, Bayern Munich, PSG have found translating success at home to abroad tricky.

There are myriad reasons but clearly, such is their sheer strength, PSG’s players can coast through games and still produce results.

They are handsomely paid, are superstars in one of the most iconic cities in the world and are considerably more talented than 90 per cent of their opponents. You can hardly blame them.

Angel Di Maria, Javier Pastore, Thiago Silva, Edinson Cavani and Ezequiel Lavezzi all arrived for considerable fees but either flopped or merely provided replica performances of the past. While younger imports Lucas Moura, Marquinhos, Layvin Kurzawa and Kevin Trapp have largely plateaued at the Parc des Princes.

Of their expensive imports, only Marco Verratti, Blaise Mautuidi, Thiago Motta and Zlatan Ibrahimovic were truly able to enhance their game in a PSG shirt.

And although it’s slightly disingenuous, considering how he’s been able to rise to the very apex of football, it’s impossible not to consider Neymar’s salary in the context of the lack of high-quality opposition he will face on a weekly basis, and ponder if he’ll be able to improve as a player and therefore inspire PSG to make the next step.

The Champions League may be the ultimate goal, but this is the genuine challenge for the 25-year-old and will go a large way to determining if he can truly “write history” in Paris, beyond the monstrous transfer sum and salary lavished to take him there.


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