TOM COLLOMOSSE: Is tonight a glimpse into PSG’s post-Neymar world? Absence against Bayern could be a blessing in disguise with his future uncertain – Galtier has stumbled upon a potent formation that can get the best out of Messi and Mbappe
- Neymar underwent surgery on his ankle injury that rules him out for the season
- With Neymar out, Christophe Galtier has stumbled on his most potent formation
- Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe have combined well and look to be PSG’s future
The match unfolded just as today’s youngsters would have wanted when playing a favourite football game on their consoles.
Lionel Messi to Kylian Mbappe, goal. Mbappe to Messi, goal. Mbappe to Messi to Mbappe, goal. Three goals and three points for Paris Saint-Germain against their fierce rivals Marseille, and their closest challengers for the Ligue 1 title.
Messi even made a point of thanking Mbappe for the sumptuous assist for his strike, and then returned the favour with an even better one – a chip that Rory McIlroy would have been proud of, dispatched on the volley by the left boot of Mbappe.
In the celebrations that followed, one man was conspicuous by his absence. The holder of the world-record transfer fee and the man brought to Paris to eclipse Europe’s traditional heavyweights – Neymar da Silva Santos Junior.
The Brazilian’s fragile right ankle has betrayed him again and he will play no part in the rest of the season.
Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar suffered a season-ending ankle injury against Lille last month
Neymar will watch the rest of the campaign from the sidelines after surgery on his ankle
With the Brazilian out, PSG boss Christophe Galtier has stumbled on his most potent formation
That will be a relief to Bayern Munich, who held a one-goal lead over PSG ahead of Wednesday’s second leg of their last-16 Champions League tie – though it is tempting to think that with Neymar out of the picture, boss Christophe Galtier has stumbled on his most potent formation.
Players as talented as Messi and Mbappe have a natural understanding on the pitch and since they have operated closer together, the signs have been encouraging.
A word on Neymar. Anyone who suggests he is a wildly overrated, injury-feigning show pony does not watch enough football. He has 77 goals in 124 appearances for Brazil (the same number as Pele) and along with Messi and Luis Suarez, was part of one of the greatest attacking line-ups in Barcelona’s history. They landed the domestic double and the Champions League in 2015, with Neymar scoring in the Final against Juventus.
Messi urged Barcelona several times to bring Neymar back to the Nou Camp after he had left for PSG in a £198million deal in 2017.
Messi would not do that for a player he does not rate, regardless of friendship. Those who dismiss Neymar are often the same people who genuinely believe players like Declan Rice are worth £150m.
Yet force a coach to pick two from Neymar, Messi and Mbappe and the Brazilian will usually be the odd man out. If Neymar is a great of his own era, Messi is an all-time great and Mbappe will surely join him in that bracket, if he has not already.
Neymar’s enormous salary and contract that runs until 2025 makes it virtually impossible to take him from Paris.
Lionel Messi (right) and Kylian Mbappe have combined well in Neymar’s absence
Mbappe and Messi’s new strike partnership could be the key to beating Bayern Munich
Player power at PSG is greater than at any other club in the world. A Messi-Mbappe strike partnership would not force Neymar to sit on the bench. If only life were so simple. On top of that, the future of both Messi and Mbappe with the French champions is uncertain.
Yet Neymar’s latest absence brings his time in France into sharp focus once more. He came to PSG with twin aims: to win the Champions League for the club and to land the Ballon d’Or. He has done neither and will be 32 on his next birthday.
Despite the 13 trophies in the French capital – and 22 in the European game – Neymar has fallen short of his own very high standards.
And harsh as it may sound, it would seem fitting if PSG were finally to deliver the Champions League with their original superstar signing kicking his heels.
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