Did PSG have the correct to resume Neymar's contract and can they persuade Mbappe to remain?
The past week has been interesting for Neymar, with one big high and two big lows. The highlight, of course, is the announcement of his contract extension in Paris Saint-Germain, which the club officially announced on Saturday, although, as previously reported, it has been in the works for three months.
The Brazilian star is now tied to the Parisians until June 2025, with an option for an additional year beyond that. Given that he will be 34 by the end of this extension, it is clear that his long-term future and arguably the rest of his European career will be in Paris.
The two lows were brutal, however. The first was PSG's elimination from the Champions League semi-finals by Manchester City as Neymar was held in check by the English side's strong defense.
The other was the points PSG lost (again) in a tight Ligue 1 title race; The 1-1 draw on Sunday at the Stade Rennes means that Lille have only three games to go, three points ahead. (Rennes also deserved the point when he left PSG 19-12 behind and scored 10 shots on goal at the four goals collected by Neymar & Co.)
To review, there won't be a second career Champions League win for Neymar this season after winning with Barcelona in 2015, nor will there likely be a fourth straight series of titles in the league. It could be some small consolation to win the French Cup after PSG beat Montpellier on Wednesday in the semi-finals on penalties to reach a final against AS Monaco or Minnows Rumilly. For the first time since the 2013-14 season with Barcelona, however, there is a risk that Neymar could end a season in Europe and win nothing.
However, he can celebrate this new deal, a much discussed new deal. Neymar has been at odds since he came to the French capital from Barcelona in August 2017 for a (still) world record fee of 222 million euros. The debate is not so much about his talent as his influence on the team and his ability to lead the superclub to the top.
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His production is out of the question either – his 86 goals and 46 assists (all competitions) in 113 games are exceptional – but the downside to this form is the fact that in nearly four seasons in France he has missed half of the games! With a net profit of $ 36 million per year (or nearly $ 620,000 per week), a lot of games are missed and the return on investment could be an issue.
There is a bigger question, however: should Paris have used the money on Neymar's new contract to make the team around him stronger and more balanced?
There are strong arguments on both sides of this debate. Without Neymar, PSG would not have reached last season's Champions League final. He was successful in the knockout rounds for them and was good in the 1-0 final defeat against Bayern Munich in front of goalkeeper Manuel Neuer – if not clinical enough. However, Neymar didn't have her best performance of the season at all: The first leg win against Barcelona in the Champions League last 16 on February 16, in which Kylian Mbappe scored a hat-trick when PSG scored a 4-1 win.
Julien Laurens shares his thoughts on Kylian Mbappe's future in Paris amid Neymar's contract extension.
Neymar was excellent in the quarter-finals against Bayern this season and made two assists in the 3-2 away win, although this great form was not present in the next round against City.
When it comes to his remarkable numbers, the question is often asked whether they are exceptional just because he is way too good for Ligue 1. Neymar has scored 55 goals and 30 assists in the 68 games he has played since joining. (PSG have made 140 league appearances since recruiting Neymar.)
Then there are the injuries and absences – amazing when you put them into context. In four seasons in Barcelona, he never made less than 26 league games in one season (his first before appearing in 34, 33 and 30 league games). He never played more than 20 in Ligue 1 (his first, followed by 17, 15 and 16, two games left). The metatarsal injury he sustained in his first season was bad, as was the one a year later, but there are other issues too like his relaxed off-field lifestyle.
Should Neymar change to get even better? Can he even change at 29? There is already a perception that he is far more professional than ever in what he eats and what he does off the field. Then there is an argument that maybe he could customize his game a little more.
Dribbling has always been at the heart of his work and is part of what makes him so special. However, he is no longer as efficient when it comes to dribbling past opponents or creating chances and scoring chances by dribbling. A look at his statistics from the last few seasons in the Champions League confirms this: This season he had 3.7 successful dribbles per game (52%). Last season it was 6.1 (65%), the season before 5.3 (59%) and his first season a whopping 7.3 per game (61%).
Neymar will be with PSG until 2025 but Kylian Mbappe's club future is still in question. Marcio Machado / Eurasia Sports Images / Getty Images
Neymar is talented and smart enough to move forward. Maybe it would be better for him to play centrally now than the real number 10 like against Bayern, where he was excellent, rather than on the left wing, where he sometimes drifts in and out of games.
It will be interesting to see how and where manager Mauricio Pochettino uses him next season. The Argentine really wanted to keep him at the club as Neymar is an important part of what he wants to do at Parc des Princes. This also applies to PSG sporting director Leonardo, who has not always had the best relationships with Neymar and his father, but who is now very close to them. "Poch" and "Leo" both believe that Neymar and Mbappe are among the 5-10 best players in the world. Keeping the Brazilian was also a way to show his ambitions – and to signal to Mbappe that he too can stay in Paris a little longer.
More importantly, PSG believe that by keeping Neymar and hopefully Mbappe they can further strengthen the squad and key positions (midfield, full-back) to make this team even better. They promised Neymar a really competitive squad for the upcoming seasons while he promised them he would bring the Champions League trophy to Paris. They trust each other, which is invaluable in football. But can both sides deliver?