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Focus on Neymar, Mbappe as PSG kick off title defence

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Paris : Neymar left Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) 12 months ago in a bid to move out of Lionel Messi’s shadow and confirm his status as one of the world’s best players, but the Brazilian may have to share the mantle of talisman with teenage prodigy Kylian Mbappe this season. The French champions start the defence of their Ligue 1 title against Caen at the Parc des Princes on  Sunday, and all eyes will be on Neymar after he missed the final three months of last term with a foot injury.

The world’s most expensive player has been the subject of consistent speculation linking him with a move away from France, with reports usually suggesting he will sign for Real Madrid, but he insists that he’s not done with PSG yet. “Yes, I will stay in Paris. I have a contract with PSG. The speculation? The majority of it is invented by the press,” Neymar told ESPN Brasil last month.

“I have a contract and people know the objective, the reason why I went to PSG. I want to win with this club and I hope this season will be wonderful.”


Neymar returned in time for the World Cup, but failed to inspire Brazil to a record-extending sixth title as they suffered a 2-1 quarter-final loss to Belgium. Mbappe, on the other hand, was named as the tournament’s best young player after scoring four goals — including two in a scintillating individual performance against Argentina — to help France lift the trophy.

The 19-year-old capped it off by becoming only the second teenager in history after Pele to score in a World Cup final, netting in the 4-2 victory over Croatia in Moscow.

The transfer fee of 180 million euros which PSG paid Monaco for Mbappe is not far behind the world-record 222 million euros they parted with for Neymar. New arrival Gianluigi Buffon believes that Mbappe can follow in Pele’s footsteps by becoming an all-time great, having played against his then-Monaco team in the 2017 Champions League semis for Juventus.

‘Neymar is my key player’

New Paris Saint-Germain head coach Thomas Tuchel insisted that Neymar is the ‘key player’ for his side. The stunning performances of Kylian Mbappe at the World Cup and consistent speculation linking Neymar with a move away from the club have left the Brazilian’s status as PSG’s star man somewhat in danger.

“It’s totally clear that he’s my best player,” said Tuchel, who took over at the Parc des Princes from Unai Emery in May.

“He’s one of the best players in the world. He’s an artist, a creative player, and for players like that, it’s easier if you don’t put too much pressure on them. That’s important.”