Decisive for PSG with a goal or a pass almost once every half, the 25-year-old still finds himself amid a storm of criticism in the French capital
Rarely can a player performing so well on the field have found himself under as much scrutiny as Neymar.
The Paris Saint-Germain forward has enjoyed a terrific start to the season for his new club, scoring 11 times and creating nine more in only 12 matches. In Ligue 1 and the Champions League combined, he has produced, on average, a decisive moment every 53.85 minutes – a sensational ration.
And yet he has discovered that simply producing the goods on the field is not enough when you are the world’s most expensive player. At €222 million, his transfer fee stands at more than twice that of any other player in history, although that will change next summer when PSG complete a deal to sign Kylian Mbappe from Monaco.
It is this additional scrutiny that his behaviour has fallen foul of. His inability to carry himself with a respectful attitude towards his peers on the field and the coaching staff in the dugout has brought with it seemingly endless newspaper columns. And with those has come the type of criticism that one of the world’s elite players is simply not used to fielding.
This has come to a head over the course of the last week during his time on international duty with Brazil. When passionately defended by head coach Tite, one of the few figures to publicly stick up for the 25-year-old attacker in such a forthright and emotional manner, Neymar, who was sitting to the Selecao boss’ right, broke down in tears.
“They are inventing a lot of stories that are not true,” Neymar protested on the eve of Brazil’s midweek meeting with England. “I don’t have any problems with my trainer and neither with Cavani.”
Emery, inexperienced at dealing with such high-profile players and inflated egos, has hardly aided the situation by failing to defuse the situation.
“What happens on the field is the most important thing,” he told the press on Thursday, conspicuously failing to deny any of the rumours that shroud his most expensive asset.
One of the reasons that the Parc des Princes side were so eager to sign him was because of the impact he would have with the media – but not like this.
Clearly, he is a player under strain.
Nevertheless, after Brazil were held to a scoreless draw against England, the striker refused to speak to the press, leading to a backlash from the local media, who branded the striker as “arrogant”.
“I didn’t read the English newspapers,” Neymar later said. “Did they use the word ‘arrogant’? I don’t want to answer that. I didn’t see anything.
“I will not speak about any rumours. I’ve already explained my side, I’m tired of it. I don’t want any more controversy. I’ve already told you everything.”
But while the player continues to face barbs in the media, there are those who still firmly support him and the interest he has brought to the French league.
World Cup winning striker Christophe Dugarry told SFR Sport that the criticism was born out of jealousy.
“Frenchmen are jealous and don’t support success,” he explained. “They think that if someone’s successful, there’s been a scam somewhere.
“Neymar must understand that and he must continue his life by having fun with his friends. It’ll do him good and it will allow him to be good on the field. He has to find his balance.”
Meanwhile, the impact the forward’s arrival in France continues to resonate around the whole world in the media sphere.
“There’s a real appetite for PSG’s matches now,” Canal+ presenter Herve Matoux said. “His arrival has had a positive impact on the entire league. He’s brought with him a real global buzz. Never have there been so many eyes on Ligue 1.”
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Neymar moved to Paris to emerge from Lionel Messi’s shadow at Barcelona and to lead Paris Saint-Germain to the Champions League as their star man. He has discovered that the price he will pay for this opportunity is living under the microscope like few players previous has known.
Behaviour that he might have gotten away with in a previous life at Camp Nou is suddenly cause for a crisis and a major media event. And this genuinely seems to vex Neymar.
Nevertheless, PSG should be wary; as Dugarry intimated, they need their star man to be happy off the field if he is to maintain his stunning standards on it.