Neymar said, he didn’t come to Paris to play in the Europa League and he certainly stepped up when mattered the most to drag Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) through to the knockout stage as group winners. After a scratchy start to the campaign, Thomas Tuchel’s future came under pressure, and surely, if anyone could salvage pride and fix the problems then it is the star from Brazil – Neymar.

Neymar followed up his two-goal salvo against Manchester United with a hat-trick against Istanbul Basaksehir, which is one of his best individual performances of the Champions League this season. He heads into the knockout stage as the joint top scorer in the competition with six goals.

The fixture at Parc des Princes was suspended after 13 minutes on Tuesday after it was alleged fourth official Sebastian Coltescu had exposed Basaksehir assistant Pierre Webo to racist language.

UEFA consequently launched an investigation and, after players for both teams united to make a stand against discrimination, Neymar ran the show, netting twice in a superb first-half showing and completing his hat-trick early in the second.

Fredrik Gulbrandsen and Mbappe had missed great chances by the time Neymar received Marco Verratti’s pass, nutmegged Carlos Ponck, and bent a sublime effort into the top-right corner to open the scoring in sensational fashion.

A rapid counter involving Rafinha and Mbappe resulted in Neymar squeezing his shot past Fehmi Mert Gunok to double the lead.

Mbappe made sure of the win before half-time, smashing home from 12 yards after Mitchell Bakker’s tap-in was ruled out for offside but Gunok was penalized for fouling Neymar.

The visitors were again tormented by Neymar, who cut in from the left, combined with Angel Di Maria and rifled in his third from 20 yards five minutes after the restart – it was a goal to relish and again, showed the shooting powers of Neymar – how devastating the Brazilian could be from the distance, it seems, he even forgets that.

Topal knew little about diverting Irfan Can Kahveci’s powerful blast home to frustrate PSG keeper Keylor Navas, but Neymar led the charge from which Mbappe tapped in Di Maria’s lay-off to end the match with a perfect 5!

After joining PSG, the main aim of Neymar was to become the best player in the world rather than wasting himself under the shadow of someone else.

But his path to greatness has always been hampered by off the field incidents and injuries.

But, right now, Neymar has become a mature player and realized the worth of his talent.

“I am in my best [form] since I arrived in Paris,” Neymar acknowledged in August when he led PSG to the Champions League final for the first time in their history.

On the road to the final, he scored two goals against Borussia Dortmund in the round of 16, gave an assist in their 2-1 victory over Atalanta in the quarter-final, and another in the semi-final with RB Leipzig.

This season, he seems to be in even better shape than the previous one.

For the first time in his career, Neymar has scored two or more goals in two consecutive games, just when his team needed him most.

Against the Turkish side, he participated in all PSG’s five.

Neymar participated in twice as many duels as any other player in the game (22) and was also the one who won the most (14).

In addition, he was the player who was fouled the most times (six), the one who produced the most shots in total (eight) and on target (six), the one who attempted the most dribbles (13), and the one who succeeded the most (five).

Neymar had already netted a hat-trick as a Barcelona player in 2013 against Celtic and another one against Red Star in 2018. In fact, only Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi have achieved more hat-tricks in the current Champions League format with eight each.

After a hat-trick against Istanbul, Neymar overtook Sergio Aguero and Rivaldo and is now placed 16th on the Champions League’s all-time top scorer list.

Neymar has netted 41 goals and has registered 24 assists in 65 games in Europe. Despite not being a striker, only three players have bagged more than his five goals this season with Marcus Rashford, Erling Haaland and Alvaro Morata having mustered six apiece.

With PSG, he has already scored 78 goals and has distributed 40 assists in just 96 games, and is the second top scorer in the club’s Champions League history with 20 goals, behind only Edinson Cavani (30).

Apart from the numbers, his leadership qualities are becoming evident and impactful more and more on the pitch. He runs everywhere on the pitch – he could start a run from the defence, control the game from the central midfield, play as an attacking midfielder and proceed as a false-9 – a genuine allrounder like Pele and Diego Maradona.

It’s time to rise and shine for the Brazilian.

His time has come.

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