Neymar is back and delivering on the pitch, but he still has his work cut out to get Paris Saint-Germain supporters back onside following his failed summer move to Barcelona.
PSG, who face Reims in Ligue 1 at the Parc des Princes on Wednesday evening, operated under a cloud throughout the summer with the future of one of their marquee players shrouded in uncertainty.
The Brazilian missed the Ligue 1 champions’ first five games as he pushed for a return to Barcelona, but the deal fell through after protracted talks.
Neymar has since made a match-winning return against Strasbourg, scoring a breathtaking overhead kick in the 92nd minute, but it was not enough to turn the torrent of ill-feeling towards the forward from the PSG supporters.
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The 27-year-old scored yet another winner last Sunday as Thomas Tuchel’s side secured a 1-0 victory at Lyon, but he was again the target of abuse as the home fans threw objects at him during the clash at the Parc Olympique Lyonnais
1:02 Neymar ignored the boos from his own fans as he scored PSG’s winner against Lyon in Ligue 1 (Pictures: beIN Sport)
“It is not the first time I have been booed by everyone,” Neymar told reporters after PSG’s win against Strasbourg. “It is sad but I know that, from now on, every game I play will be an away game.”
“I made it clear I have nothing against the fans, nothing against Paris Saint-Germain as a club,” he added. “Everyone knows I wanted to leave. I am not going to get into the details of what happened.
“It is time to turn the page. Today I am a PSG player and I am going to give everything on the field.”
Brazilian ESPN journalist Natalie Gedra believes her compatriot must get used to the fact there will be animosity towards him wherever he plays in France.
Speaking on the Sunday Supplement, Gedra said: “After the match against Strasbourg he gave his first interview in a very long time and he said he did want to leave PSG because of personal reasons. It was nothing against the club, he just wanted to go back to Barcelona for personal reasons.
“He knows this season he will always be playing away, even when he is playing at the Parc des Princes. It’s okay that most fans don’t like him at this very moment because the most important thing is for the fans to be behind the team, and not behind Neymar.
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“The reception he got during the game against Strasbourg was a demonstration from the ultras on how unsatisfied they are with Neymar. I think during the season there is a chance that he wins some of the “regular” fans at PSG back, but not the ultras. The ultras have really made up their mind on Neymar and the way that he behaved did not help.
“His clear preference for leaving PSG, making a real effort to do so, giving an interview saying his highlight as a player was the Barcelona locker room when they beat PSG – fans don’t forget these things easily.
“With the way he behaved I was curious to see how his first match for PSG would go and it went as I imagined because he always delivers on the pitch. Nobody questions his talent or anything like that.
“He always does well for Brazil. During the Copa America Brazilian fans were really missing him and they were saying how reliant the Brazil team is on him. Nobody questions that. It’s just the way he behaves, is it as professional as it should be?”
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The Sunday Supplement
September 29, 2019, 10:00am
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A career of ups and downs
Gedra interviewed a 14-year-old Neymar for the first time at Santos, and added: “There have been a lot of ups and downs during his career because he reached a peak at Santos and then at a certain point of his career in Brazil he had some attitude issues with an old manager that were discussed.
“Then he went to Barcelona and things just settled for him. His football improved, his physicality improved, and he had much more of a low profile. In the national team it’s always been the same. He really likes to play for the national team.
0:51 Neymar opens up on his failed summer transfer away from Paris Saint-Germain
“Everybody praises him and the way that he behaves in the national team, but in his club career there have been a lot of ups and downs.
“He says that if you look at his stats from last season he did well. Of course, we can look at his statistics but when you reach a level you expect so much more than just goals and assists from him.
“He can deliver at that level. We’re not just talking about his football but him as a professional footballer.”
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0:54 Neymar faces a fight to win over fans, says French expert Jonathan Johnson
‘Mbappe will always be favoured over Neymar’
The French club paid a world-record €222m (£200m) for him in August 2017 and publicly stated that he could leave “if an offer suits”. But having set a high valuation and refused to lower their asking price, the player’s personal pleas fell on deaf ears.
After Neymar even offered to pay £17.7m (€20m) towards securing a deal, the Daily Telegraph’s Chief Football Correspondent Jason Burt believes PSG will seek to build their team around Kylian Mbappe.
“He will be the main man at Paris Saint-Germain,” Burt said.
0:46 Thomas Tuchel says he has no control over the reaction of PSG fans to Neymar
“If you asked PSG who they’d rather lose they’d rather lose Neymar, but they are not going to lose him without the fee being paid back.