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Neymar's effect across Ligue 1

Saturday 26th August 2017
Paris Saint-Germain's resolve to smash the world's record fee for Neymar obviously didn't go down well across the globe. But the Brazilian maestro appears to be justifying every penny splashed on him after two games played so far, with exquisite displays never envisaged in France.

Never a time has Neymar's extraordinary qualities as a footballer really been in doubt. From the moment he first burst onto the scene with Santos in 2009, it was clear that a rare gem, a new global superstar has been born; and only a matter of time before he eventually fulfils that potential to the fullest. However, he didn't manage to achieve that at Barcelona where he spent the last four years. Perhaps, owing to the presence of another genius in Lionel Messi, who was more or less the de facto leader.
Enter the ambitious PSG - blinded by their ambition to clinch that elusive Champions League title - coughed out a whopping €222m for the Brazilian superstar. Neymar himself, tired of playing the supporting cast, was presented with the spotlight he so much craved for. Making their union a pretty quid pro quo.

To the pitch, Neymar, as usual, was under no pressure whatsoever to deliver. Having sat out the club's opening day victory over Amiens SC, the forward made his long-awaited debut away to Guingamp. PSG won 3-0 with the ex-Santos star simply unmarkable; scoring once and assisting another. He dominated the centre of the pitch, completing 11 take-ons in the process, more than any player last season and made contact with the ball 128 times.

"Neymar? He was incredible," said Guingamp midfielder, Lucas Deaux, after the game. " I don't think he is human. He is a phenomenon, a genius really. Even if we were two or three on him, we couldn't get near him. I had never seen anything like this before. Good luck to the other teams."

Indeed, opposing teams grasped they will need something more than just luck to cage the menacing Brazilian. Perhaps the reason Toulouse boss, Pascal Dupraz's game plan was to cut off the 25-year-old completely from his teammates. "If we can cut the service to him so he can get a third less of the ball, he will shine less," he said before Sunday's match. "At times, we will have two or three players on him."

On the d-day, Dupraz's lads were prepared to frustrate the world's most expensive player in front of a fully packed Parc des Princes. Their strategy seemed to be working in the early stages. They even took a shock lead. Then it was time for the 'Neymar show'. Despite all the barricades and lunges, the 25-year-old still penetrated to nick in two beautiful goals and laced two others for his teammates. At the end, PSG won 6-2 and the Brazilian superstar touched the ball 118 times.

Neymar's numbers have simply been remarkable since moving to the Ligue 1. The Parisien's new no. 10 has created the most chances, most assists, third-most shots on goal and most take-ons. But aside the stats, the 25-year-old's arrival has had a positive effect on his club and the league as a whole. His teammates have obviously raised their own games to complement him. "He elevates them, makes them better," said Guingamp manager, Antoine Kombouare. Even other teams have upped their games also as if they wanted to prove something to the Brazilian.

French football now has a new king, obviously none other, Neymar.
Toby Prince

If the sport has 11-men on each side, a ball and lasts for 90 minutes then I'll write about it. Simply put, I'm an unrepentant soccer freak that other freaks will, however, call a geek. I do find time for music when not watching the beautiful game, though and have been known to produce the odd track. 


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