PARIS, France, Feb 28 – Neymar’s dramatic first season at Paris Saint-Germain since his world-record move from Barcelona last August took another twist this week, with a fractured metatarsal set to rule him out of the Champions League clash against Real Madrid.
The 26-year-old arrived in the French capital amid much fanfare with hopes of becoming the best player on the planet, but among his goals and strong performances have come tears in a press conference, ‘penaltygate’, a red card against Marseille and now a cracked bone in his foot.
Episode 1: Sh 27bn (222 million euros)
Neymar’s PSG soap opera followed a close-season transfer saga that was almost a mini-drama series in its own right. After plentiful rumours and bluffs from both PSG and Barca, the Brazilian star eventually signed for the French team on August 3 for Sh27bn ($264 million), dwarfing the previous record transfer fee.
Episode 2: Ligue 1 goalfests
After a debut goal at Guingamp, Neymar showed off the full range of his skills in a 6-2 thrashing of Toulouse at the Parc des Princes. The forward scored two, set up another and won a penalty to immediately endear himself further to the home fans. Goals followed in the Champions League wins over Celtic and Bayern Munich, before another double in a 6-2 thumping of Bordeaux continued his excellent start in the French top flight.
Episode 3: ‘Penaltygate’
It didn’t take long for controversy to rear its head, though, when Neymar tried to take the ball away from strike partner Edinson Cavani before the Uruguayan took, and missed, a penalty against Lyon in September. What should have been a trivial matter was blown out of proportion, with Neymar also claiming he was the designated penalty-taker.
Episode 4: Red mist descends
The following month, Neymar combusted in a dramatic 2-2 draw at PSG’s arch-rivals Marseille. He was sent off for a second yellow card after clashing with Lucas Ocampos, with only a late Cavani free-kick rescuing a point. PSG fans questioned whether Neymar understood the importance of their great rivalry with OM.
Episode 5: Tearing up
Rumours of fall-outs with Cavani and PSG coach Unai Emery all became too much for the Brazil captain after an international friendly against Japan in Lille, with Neymar giving a tearful press conference. “I’m here to ask you to stop creating stories that didn’t happen,” he begged the French media. “Everything is going well in Paris, I’m very happy here.”
Episode 6: Injury strikes before Real
After Neymar had failed to prevent PSG from falling to a 3-1 defeat in their Champions League, last-16 first leg at Real Madrid, he injured himself late in a 3-0 win over Marseille. The former Barcelona man was stretchered off in anguish, before PSG confirmed he had sprained his right ankle and fractured a metatarsal. The injury leaves his hopes of facing Real in the return game on March 6 all but over, despite Emery’s claims he still has a “small chance” of recovering in time.