PARIS, France, Aug 12 – As the hysteria mounts ahead of Neymar’s Paris Saint-Germain debut on Sunday focus switched from his record transfer fee to the question of which star would make way for the Brazilian.
Le Parisien daily newspaper suggested it would be Javier Pastore, the silky but fragile Argentine who was the first major signing after PSG were bought by their ambitious Qatari owners, who splashed out a world record 222 million-euro ($261 million) for Neymar.
“After first giving up his No.10 shirt, will he (Pastore) now give him (Neymar) his place in the team?” one Le Parisien headline asked of the player who took up the No.10 shirt after Zlatan Ibrahimovic left last season, only to hand it to the Brazilian this season.
“Neymar will start on the left at the cost of Pastore,” the article claimed.
“So it’ll be Neymar, (Edinson) Cavani and without doubt (Angel) di Maria in a three pronged attack,” said Le Parisien, which then gave a long list of top signings who will be warming the PSG bench.
Alongside Pastore will be the Brazilian Lucas Moura, who is rumoured to be staying as he has been friends with Neymar since the age of nine, and Germany captain at the Confederations Cup Julian Draxler, who arrived just last year in a big money transfer of his own.
Sports daily L’Equipe saw things differently, though.
“Neymar – the football version,” ran their headline in a joke about how the most expensive transfer in football history has dominated news without the 25-year-old forward even kicking a ball yet.
“A trio of Neymar, Pastore and di Maria will support Cavani,” they predicted, but were unsure where the extra man would be cut.
The only sure thing is that Neymar will start.
“He’s physically ready to play the whole ninety minutes,” PSG coach Unai Emery told AFP.
“He’s been working well and we looked hard at tactics and free-kicks,” said the Spaniard.
“We all want him in the starting eleven, he’s a player we need in the group.”
Guingamp coach Antoine Kombouaré, himself a former PSG manager, also wants Neymar to play.
“I want the fans to come Sunday to see Guingamp win… preferably against a side with Neymar in it.
“But the people here are not talking about Neymar,” he claimed. “The people here support their team.”
In the tiny Brittany town of Guingamp, with a population of around 7,000, tickets for the match have been changing hands for a king’s ransom as the Stade du Rouduorou has a capacity of just over 17,000.
“We could have filled a stadium of 40,000 seats with no problem at all,” Guingamp president Bertrand Desplat told local newspaper Le Telegramme.
“Remember the star of the show is going to be Neymar and for us we want to welcome this very special player and his team in the best conditions possible,” he said.
Journalists however may find themselves a bit squeezed for space as the rustic press tribune allowing for 80 press seats has been extended to a blockbuster 350.