While the Neymar v Cavani battle at PSG is the latest tussle to take over a locker room, it certainly won’t be the last in a highly-charged sport
Edinson Cavani versus Neymar. One of the biggest football news stories of the past week.
One of those cases in which the balance in a changing room can be more important than the ability of the individual players. The Brazil star and the Uruguay striker will need to fix their tiff if Paris Saint-Germain are to have a positive season. Otherwise Cavani might have to leave. It’s not the first time this has happened, and it won’t be the last.
The whole affair was over who had to take a penalty and free-kick that sparked the fight between Cavani and Neymar, just like Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery back in 2012 in a Champions League semi-final tie against Real Madrid. There was even a punch involved, reportedly, as the two stars of the team clashed. But Bayern went through to the final and Ribery and Robben sorted things out.
Having to deal with the coexistence of so many stars is a crucial part of today’s managerial work. The man-management of the likes of Josè Mourinho or Carlo Ancelotti has earned them praise and victories.
When the Portuguese coach went to Inter, he found a changing room that was divided between the Argentinians and the rest. No real, direct fight, but the need to glue the disparate players together to win trophies. That’s what Josè did: the Nerazzurri won the Treble in 2010, after two years with the Special One in charge.
A team like the Real Madrid of the Galacticos is always at risk of these kinds of situations, as in the summer of 2013, when Mesut Ozil demanded to be in the starting line-up for the upcoming season, ahead of the likes of Angel Di Maria. Zinedine Zidane – at the time the vice coach of Ancelotti – explained that at Madrid you will always be in competition for a starting role. Ozil went to Arsenal, Di Maria stayed and was decisive in the Champions League final in 2014: Ancelotti won the most prestigious trophy.
This isn’t just a problem for clubs. Who can forget what happened to France in 2010? After reaching the final in 2006 under Raymond Domenech, a team full of stars crashed out of the South Africa World Cup four years later. The players revolted against the coach after rows in the changing room, and negative results followed.
Of course, a divided changing room is not always a negative thing. The legendary Lazio team that won the Italian league title back in 1974 used to have constant fights in the changing room. Groups of players against each other on a regular basis for the entire season. Then, once on the pitch, everyone worked perfectly together, and managed to make it all the way to a final victory.
Fights like this happen regularly within a team of players, it’s how they are covered from the media and dealt with that makes a difference. It can become an ongoing bug that impacts the team, or just be a moment that doesn’t affect the rest of the campaign. How PSG and coach Unay Emery deal with it will be absolutely key to the rest of the Parisians’ season.