Neymar may have missed out on helping Paris Saint-Germain claim the Ligue 1 title on the pitch against Monaco on Sunday, but the Brazilian deserves to play a key role in the celebrations.
While a broken foot sustained by the world’s most expensive player ruled him out of the Champions League last-16 second leg against Real Madrid, he was hugely decisive domestically.
A haul of 19 goals in 20 league appearances represents a strong first season in Ligue 1 for the forward, who also provided a league-high 13 assists.
But along with the numerous highs, there were some lows for Neymar – continuously linked with a move to Madrid – in his first year at the club.
Here we pick out some of those extremes from Neymar’s first PSG campaign.
HIGH – Scoring on debut
After a glitzy unveiling in the French capital, it was time for Neymar to show what all the fuss was about – and the Brazilian got up and running with a goal on his debut. It was a scrappy finish, Neymar scoring from close range after team-mate Edinson Cavani picked him out in the box, as PSG cruised to a 3-0 win at Guingamp. There would be 27 more goals for PSG in all competitions before injury struck.
— Paris Saint-Germain (@PSG_English) September 22, 2017
LOW – Falling out with Cavani
Just a month into Neymar’s time at PSG there were signs everything was not rosy between him and Cavani. The pair clashed over penalty duties in a win against Lyon, with Cavani denied from 12 yards. Reports suggested Neymar and Cavani had to be separated in the dressing room and they would clash again over set-piece duties in a defeat of Troyes in November. Cavani won the argument again on that occasion – but Neymar would get his way later in the season.
LOW – Red mist against Marseille
Neymar had scored for PSG against rivals Marseille in October’s Classique meeting, but he would not see the game out. After being hustled off the ball deep in opposition territory, Neymar lost his temper and chased after midfielder Morgan Sanson, barging him to the ground to earn his first yellow. And as the red mist descended, Neymar was sent off moments later. The Brazilian dribbled away from Lucas Ocampos, who tripped him. Neymar responded with a petulant shove, giving the referee no choice but to produce a red card. With PSG down to 10 men, Cavani stepped up to whip in a glorious late free-kick equaliser to save a point.
HIGH – Destroying Celtic
Celtic actually took the lead at the Parc des Princes in November, but Neymar then delivered a Champions League masterclass. He scored PSG’s first two goals to turn the game around, the Scottish champions unable to cope with his nimble footwork and inventive play. An assist for Cavani followed – controlling the ball with his back into the path of the Uruguay international – with a series of dazzling tricks lighting up a dominant performance from Unai Emery’s side.
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) February 28, 2018
HIGH – First PSG hat-trick
Neymar scored his first PSG hat-trick in January’s 8-0 demolition of Dijon in Paris, the Brazilian irrepressible as the champions ran riot. Neymar set up Angel Di Maria for PSG’s second – although he may well have been going for goal – before taking centre stage. Neymar’s first was a delightfully chipped free-kick, the second a simple finish after a poor clearance, but the third was the pick of the bunch. Neymar picked up the ball wide on the left and burst clear of from two defenders, dribbing away from three more before slamming home a superb low strike. As if that was not enough, Neymar added a fourth with a late penalty.
— Ligue1 English (@Ligue1_ENG) February 5, 2018
LOW – Falling out with Cavani… again
But the spot-kick proved another controversial moment in Neymar’s first season at PSG. In scoring their third goal against Dijon, Cavani drew level with Zlatan Ibrahimovic as the club’s record goalscorer. So, when the striker was tripped in the box with a few minutes to go, it seemed obvious he would step up to break the enigmatic Swede’s record record. But Neymar had other ideas, demanding to take it himself and tucking the penalty away as PSG fans whistled and chanted Cavani’s name. It was an extraordinarily selfish moment from the Brazilian, although Cavani would soon claim the record anyway.
HIGH – Party tricks against Rennes
A fortnight later, Neymar appeared to be growing bored with the ease in which PSG were winning after his side raced into a 3-0 lead at Rennes in the Coupe de la Ligue semi-finals. The forward promptly took it upon himself to entertain the crowd with a series of show-stopping skill moves, including controlling the ball on his back. But Neymar angered Rennes by offering to help up Hamari Traore before whipping his hand away and leaving the player sat on the ground. Neymar dismissed the incident as a “joke”, but not everyone was laughing.
LOW – Breaking his foot
PSG’s away game at Marseille proved miserable for Neymar due to his red card, but worse was to come in the return match at the end of February. In a fiery contest in Paris, Emery’s men raced into a 3-0 lead after 55 minutes, allowing the Spaniard to rest key players with an eye on facing Madrid in the Champions League. But Neymar was left on the pitch and that decision would prove disastrous.
He went into a challenge with Bouna Sarr, the attempted tackles from both players seeming innocuous. But as Neymar’s legs were tangled with Sarr’s, the Brazilian fractured his foot and sprained his ankle, an injury that left him in tears and required a stretcher to carry him from the pitch. Emery claimed Neymar had a chance of facing Madrid but it was a forlorn hope and the forward needed surgery. Neymar was then criticised for appearing to compare his predicament to wheelchair user Stephen Hawking after the British physicist’s death.
Você tem que ter uma atitude positiva e tirar o melhor da situação na qual se encontra.
Stephen Hawking pic.twitter.com/JE2MtyuT6b
— Neymar Jr (@neymarjr) March 14, 2018
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