The issue of Neymar and Edinson Cavani arguing over who was going to take the penalty in Paris Saint-Germain’s win over Lyon, it was weird to see at this level.
I think we can call it ‘Penalty Gate’. Two big international players with a lot of experience. Neymar is not a kid anymore and Cavani is older, so it was surprising to see two professionals go against each other. It’s disturbing for PSG fans and also their teammates.
It shows they both have desire to score goals and put Paris on the right path by scoring the most goals they can, but it’s selfish behavior in front of cameras and the media. It’s not good for their image or the team spirit. But it looks like it’s been handled internally by the players, which is the best way.
It is a worry though. I see two things. You wonder about the penalty taker order at PSG, how it is handled. It wasn’t clear, maybe that’s what led to the altercation. Unai Emery decided who it was, it looks like it was Cavani, but Neymar decided otherwise. Number two, the penalty itself. Anybody can take one but it is a moment of concentration.
For Cavani or Neymar to go into a childish battle between who’s going to take it, it’s not the best way to prepare an attempt on goal. You don’t want to see that in the quarter-final, semi-final or the final of a Champions League so perhaps, in a way, it’s good the incident arrived early in the season. There’s enough pressure on penalty takers’ shoulders, so going through this seconds before taking the penalty, that’s why I find it very curious.
It was always clear when I was at Manchester United who was taking penalties. Number one when I arrived was Becks (David Beckham). He would take them. Then it was Ruud van Nistelrooy. Then Wayne (Rooney) or Cristiano (Ronaldo). The gaffer would always say number one and number two, and nobody would question his authority. Definitely not. No-one would dare to go against the manager. It was a different time for sure, especially with Sir Alex there. There was a clear understanding about who were the main penalty takers and it was never an issue there in my time.
PSG’s opponents on Wednesday night are Bayern Munich and for their coach Carlo Ancelotti, he’s under pressure. But he’s been under pressure at Real Madrid, AC Milan, Chelsea and PSG too. When you manage at one of those clubs you need to deliver and Bayern is no different. I think he can deal with the pressure. He doesn’t look stressed but the team have to respond to the critics and the doubts because there’s a lot of doubts.
Players individually and collectively are not in the best shape at the moment. The form of some is reflecting on the team’s performance. So the momentum is not positive going into the game. But it is an occasion where they can put everything behind them. I don’t believe in miracles though so I would expect Paris to come out on top.
As for my old club, United, they go to Russia to play CSKA Moscow and I expect them to do a professional performance with a lot of discipline. Jose Mourinho knows exactly how to set up the team for these types of games in Europe.
Romelu Lukaku talked at Everton of wanting to play in the Champions League and I expect him to thrive on this stage. That’s one step higher for him and I think he’s ready for it. In the group games I expect him to score almost every game.
It will be interesting to see how he deals with the knockout stages when he has less chances, because I still think he still needs a good amount of chances to score. He’s not been totally clinical so far. The Champions League will be the competition where he can really improve. But he’s 24 so I’m fully optimistic Romelu will deliver. Maybe not this season but the next or the one after.