How time flies in football! This Saturday marks two years to the day since Paris Saint-Germain parted with a whopping €222m of their money to sign Brazilian superstar Neymar Jr from Barcelona.
It was seismic moment which exemplified the current boom in transfers fees, and left many wondering whether the Brazil international had made a wise decision in swapping the Catalan giants for the French capital.
Two years on and the player’s magnetism for controversy has only increased. A glut of winner’s medals may have adorned his neck, but there have been some considerable low points for Neymar at the Parc de Princes. As the player now actively pushes for an exit from the French champions, here’s a look back at six defining moments of the Brazilian’s spell at PSG.
Cavani Penalty Snub
Just a few months on from signing for PSG, Neymar found himself on the receiving end of jeers from his own supporters following his refusal to allow Edinson ?Cavani to take a late penalty during a victory over Dijon. With his team already up by a ludicrous seven goals, Cavani needed just one more strike to take him ahead of Zlatan Ibrahimovic as PSG’s all-time leading scorer.
Neymar clearly didn’t get the memo or was just plain selfish, as he duly converted the spot-kick for his fourth goal of the match, much to the consternation of the home supporters.
A similar incident had occurred earlier that season in a match against Lyon, with Neymar left fuming after Cavani refused to allow him to take a penalty in that match. This tension caused further fallout, with then PSG manager Unai Emery dragged in to the bust-up as the negative press began to snowball around the Brazilian superstar.
Relationship With Emery
??Neymar’s relationship with Emery was far from ideal from that moment on. The Spanish manager is thought to have been privately disgusted by his player’s childish antics on the pitch, and was left to diffuse a very trick and public situation.
The Spanish manager is known for his hands-on, meticulous approach and this clearly didn’t go down well his new Brazilian superstar, with rumours of training ground bust-ups hardly a help as the situation deteriorated.
There was only ever going to be one winner in such a power struggle and ultimately, Emery announced in April? 2018 that he would be standing down as manager after two years in the job.
Fractured Metatarsal and Showboating Row
During a routine victory over Strasbourg in the Coupe de France ?earlier this year, Neymar left the pitch in tears and was taken straight to hospital for scans after fracturing a metatarsal bone. The Brazilian had been on the receiving end of some brutal kicks by opposition players that night which drew ire from his manager.
However he was criticised himself by the certain sections of the French media, as well as then Strasbourg manager Thierry Laurey, for ‘showboating’ and trying to goad opposition players with his superior skill.
The 55-year-old manager said of the incident after the game: “There are moments when, if you go over the limit a little bit, you have to expect that you are going to get a kick or two. I didn’t ask my players to go and kick Neymar, but I understand why the players had had enough of someone who was looking to tease and taunt them a bit.”
The injury – a repeat of the one the Brazilian had suffered 12 months previously – saw him forced to watch his side fall out of the Champions League at the last 16 stage…for the second year in a row.
Victory Over Liverpool in Champions League
?It is no secret that PSG covet the Champions League above all other major honours as they try and establish themselves as one of Europe’s biggest clubs, with Neymar’s arrival intended to be a catalyst for their ultimate success in Europe’s premier competition. While the Brazilian has been accused of shying away from the big games, his influence during his side’s 2-1 group stage victory over Liverpool last November cannot be disputed.
This was the Neymar we all like to see. Tenacious, wonderfully skilful and a constant threat to the Liverpool defensive lines all night; the Brazilian ran the show as the Parisians booked their place in the knockout rounds. He drew clever fouls and caused havoc, as the Reds were left frustrated by the Brazilian.
His second goal was a peach as well; starting to the move off from deep in his own half, before gliding through the lines and linking up beautifully with Cavani and Kylian Mbappé to finish it all off with an instinctive tap in. It was a statement victory and a standout performance by Neymar in a PSG shirt.
Physical Altercation With Rennes Supporter
?Climbing the stairs of the Stade de France to collect a runners-up medal following his side’s defeat in the French Cup final, Neymar was drawn in to an altercation with a Rennes supporter which ended in the Brazilian aiming a sly punch at the fan.
The supporter had been goading the forward following Rennes’ shoot-out victory. The Brazilian was defended by his teammates and manager following the incident, but it was yet another negative headline as his time in the French capital became increasingly sour.
Absent From Pre-Season Training
Two years on from his world-record transfer, it has become obvious that Neymar is actively trying to engineer a move away from PSG. After an unhappy season marred by injury, a lack of European success and the increasing importance of ?Mbappe, things were looking pretty grim.
They took a turn for the worse when Neymar refused to report for pre-season training in July as rumours about his future continued to gather pace. PSG made it clear that they would punish their player as they tried to save face from an incident which has become on the only latest sensational headline to come out of this very public, two-year soap opera. There appears to be no happy ending in the script either.