Neymar, Barcelona’s prodigal son at PSG

Neymar’s growing pains at Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) took a new turn after the footballer was substituted in their 2-0 victory over Lille on Friday.

In response to the unending boos from PSG fans since his request to leave the Parisian club failed last summer—and contrary to the norm in football—Neymar walked straight past his manager Thomas Tuchel and teammates who sat on the substitute bench. His destination was the dressing room.

Although football pundits believe Neymar’s excesses would be dealt with “internally,” considering the already-bad public image and media rumors, Tuchel says the Brazilian star did no wrong.

But Neymar’s return to Paris is creating more problems than expected. Before the match against Lille, Neymar, who was recuperating after suffering an injury, flew down to Madrid in support of his close friend and former teammate Gerard Pique at the Davis Cup tournament.

The Davis Cup was organized by Pique.

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Undated image shows Pique and Neymar

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Tuchel was not happy with Neymar’s decision to jump on a plane for fun instead of focusing on club projects and personal development. And the player’s response when substituted did not show remorse.

Speaking to newsmen on the alleged internal issues between Tuchel and Neymar, the coach said: “What can I do about that? I’m neither his father nor the police.”

The German coach was obviously indifferent to Neymar’s disrespectful behaviors when he, however, included his Brazilian ace in the starting line-up against Lille.  Unfortunately, the player had a somewhat unexciting performance on the field until he was subbed in the 64th minute.

Neymar didn’t feel happy—though his reason remains unclear—when the board went up on the side-lines just after the hour mark, with 10 in red and Kylian Mbappe’s No. 7 with the green. The France international footballer had been sick before the match so it could have been a surprise that both stars needed to share pitch time.

Neymar plodded off the field, gave a hug to the young Frenchman who is also a close friend, and then headed straight down the tunnel to the dressing room. The Brazilian was in no mood to stay on the bench and support his teammates for the final half hour.

Football pundits slammed Neymar for showing off such an insensitive character. Admittedly, it wasn’t the wisest action from a world-class footballer whose decision to re-join Barcelona in the summer angered most local fans. PSG supporters have never stopped whistling his actions since then.

Answering questions from newsmen after Neymar’s unvoiced anger, Tuchel tried to play it down.

‘It’s nothing new in football,’ the coach said of his No. 10. “Many players choose to go directly to the dressing room whereas others may want to stay on the bench.

‘In fact, I didn’t notice what happened because my focus was on the tactical change…Mbappé needed to pass instructions to his teammates and I was watching to see it done…Neymar’s problem, if any, will be discussed internally.’

The German tactician also justified Neymar’s inclusion in the first team, saying: ‘He was out of action for 6 weeks so he is yet to reach his peak…But the time he got on the pitch was reasonable enough for a player like him…It was obvious that he lacked rhythm, precision, as well as the time to be decisive…He just needed to play after 6 weeks.’

PSG will slug it out with Real Madrid in Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League fixture with Zinedine Zidane’s men. By then Neymar’s absence or presence in the selected squad will tell if the alleged rift with Tuchel has been settled—while Barcelona wait to have their prodigal son back at Camp Nou.