Neymar’s PSG debut was against lowly opposition, but the freedom, space and responsibility on the pitch showed why the Brazilian left Barcelona
Following Neymar’s recent move to Paris Saint Germain for a worldwide record of over $260 million, the expectations were extremely high – which is entirely normal for a player who is considered amongst the world’s very best. The Brazilian, did not disappoint on his Ligue Un debut, as he inspired the French capital-side to a 3-0 victory away to Guingamp.
After finally receiving all the required documentation for his official registration in the French league, following a bureaucratic delay from FC Barcelona and the Spanish football federation, Neymar was able to make his long-awaited debut for PSG. The Brazilian featured in the starting lineup, in what seemed to be a nominal 4-3-3 formation. However, Neymar was soon to occupy a central position where he was responsible for being the link between the midfield and the attack. It seemed that the former Barcelona star, was operating in a free role with the possibility of roaming all around the pitch, without any restrictions.
Neymar looked comfortable right from the beginning, and entertained the whole crowd with his footwork throughout the 90 minutes. Some players can take a lot of time to adapt to their new team, but it seemed that Unai Emery’s side was the one willing to adapt to Neymar’s game, as he was the focal point of all their plays and the center of attention of everyone who had the ball.
The Brazilian combined his vision with his improved play-making skills on numerous occasions, sending vertical or even diagonal through balls for his teammates. Marquinhos was on the receiving end of one of his crosses but his header was denied by the post, whereas Edinson Cavani displayed more finesse in the final third, by converting a wonderful pass into the back of the net. In the dying moments of the game, the Uruguay international returned the favor to his South American teammate, as Neymar was able to finish the game by scoring on his debut.
Neymar seems to have joined the right team for his development as player. At Barcelona, he would have to stick the wing for longer periods and have less freedom to roam to a central position where he can display his play-making skills. The Seleção star’s game was being limited, as Argentina captain Lionel Messi was the one charged to play this role. The only option for Neymar to play the function that suits him best, was eventually to make the swap into the ranks of the six-times champions of France.
The difference was very obvious between the Neymar of Barcelona and the Neymar of PSG, even if it is still very early days. As a matter of fact, he was able to register 64 touches in a central position, a number he had never reached in any game at any competition, while at Barcelona. It is clear that he has a bigger responsibility in his new team, but it is the kind of responsibility that motivates him and allows him to express his talent in the best possible way.
While it still premature to make definite conclusions, it was clear against Guingamp that in Messi’s absence, Neymar was more willing to trust all his teammates instead of concentrating on one player. This would certainly allow him to improve himself as a play-maker, and to express his passing skills to the full potential. By the looks of it, the PSG star has the chance to improve himself in a different role, which will turn-out to be beneficial for Brazil’s national team, as Tite’s men need him in a similar function for the FIFA World Cup.