Paris Saint-Germain is looking to travel to Spain on Tuesday to play Real Madrid in the Champions League with a Brazilian Neymar who has ‘matured’, according to his teammate Marquinhos: “Neymar has lived things that have matured him as a person, and as a player,” the PSG vice-captain told AFP.
For sure, there has been a lot of issues for the PSG over their record 222 million euro signing since Neymar joined them from Barcelona in 2017.
The 27-year-old Brazilian star has helped PSG to win two titles in a weak Ligue 1 but hasn’t been able to inspire them to the heights in the Champions League competition, which is possibly the main reason for the Qatari-financed club indulging in such a massive project.
Neymar has been perceived to be mostly respected by the fans but not loved, as there was some jeering when he was substituted during Friday’s win over Lille, his first game in six weeks following a hamstring injury he sustained when playing against Nigeria friendlies.
Some of the antipathy was as a result of his exerted and but failed efforts to secure a transfer back to Barcelona during the summer. But his teammate, Marquinhos, is in no doubt about the commitment and energy that his fellow Brazilian brings to the french club.
“Ney has always been thorough. He is someone who doesn’t do things by halves. It shows on the field. When he takes the ball he wants to be decisive,” says the 25-year-old.
“Once he’s on the pitch, even after all that happened during the transfer window and the other stories, he’s back on the pitch to win, to score, to make a difference. He’s not hiding. He proves that he is totally committed alongside us,” he added.
His decision to fly to Madrid to take in the Davis Cup tennis last week did not go down well with coach Thomas Tuchel but it marks just another blimp in the Brazilian’s sojourn in France, unfairly according to Marquinhos.
“There are other things to say as well. He worked well during the week, he did everything right. I think we should put more emphasis on the good things he does rather than the negative things,” says Marquinhos.
“If you put all this in the balance, the positive things that he does (are superior) but there are always some negative points that people want to talk about because it is Ney! And when you speak about Ney, it resonates around the world.”
“As a friend, he always does good things but we don’t talk about them,” he added.
Tuesday’s match against Real Madrid comes with PSG already qualified for the last 16. But playing at the Santiago Bernabeu will show whether PSG can finally be considered genuine Champions League contenders or not.
It may also offer a clue as to whether Neymar is finally going to live up to the 222 million price tag which has weighed heavily on him in big games over the last two years.
“I hope for that especially. He always wants to perform, to win. He’s a real competitor, not just in football. In everything he does, he wants to be the best, that is always in his head,” says Marquinhos.
“If he hasn’t been in recent years, he is certainly going to want to show it this season. I hope it’s going to be a very good season for him and for us.”