Almost four years after Paris Saint-Germain paid 400 million euros to collect them, Neymar gave a goal pass to Mbappé in a direct knockout match in the Champions League.
It happened in Munich, a week ago, when the Brazilian assisted the Frenchman in the goal that opened the scoring in the first leg of what has so far been the most spectacular crossing that this edition of the Champions League has offered.
Tonight in the Parc des Princes, PSG will have to defend the 2-3 with something more than a bus if they are to have guarantees of reaching the semifinals at the expense of Bayern.
The spotlights illuminate Neymar and? Mbappé, the most gifted couple in world football, but not the most complicit.
Mauricio Pochettino, the coach, warned yesterday that his players must attack better.
Worrying statistics gravitate to the technician's memory insofar as they indicate lack of control.
Just 27% possession in the second leg against Barça in the second round, to make three shots on goal and receive 10, and only 64% possession in the first leg against Bayern, to receive 31 shots and finish six.
"With Barcelona at home we had a lot of difficulties keeping the ball, even with Paredes and with Verratti," said Pochettino, referring to the two major absences that can weigh down his team against Bayern.
“Because it is not a question of names.
It is a matter of attitude and collective aptitude.
Against Bayern we must do things differently.
Not only to defend but to elaborate and hurt the opponent with the ball.
That is our great challenge ”.
The coach's words point to Neymar and Mbappé, the players who assume the most responsibility in their attack.
Especially Neymar Júnior, who at 29 has reached athletic maturity and handles himself in the midfield with the same criteria as in the midfield player, a quality that inspires many analysts to compare him with Johan Cruyff in the same way that they equate technical conditions. from Mbappé to those of Pelé.
There is no team in the world football concert with two attackers of the caliber of Neymar and Mbappé.
In a game in which the association multiplies creative possibilities, the meeting of the two figures endows PSG with a formidable weapon.
However, for almost four seasons the pump was almost never activated in the decisive moments of the Champions League.
In the 2017-18 season, only one goal pass was recorded, from Neymar to Mbappé, in the group stage, against Celtic;
In 2018-19, they only connected to score three goals against Estrella Roja, also in the group stage;
In 2019-20 they shared two goals against Galatasaray in the group stage, and then Mbappé assisted Neymar in Dortmund in the round of 16, before going through a quarter-final, a semi-final and a final without meeting.
Neymar and Mbappé have lined up together in just 26 Champions League games since 2017, 19 in the preliminary phase and seven in the knockout stages.
In those meetings they have scored 33 goals, ten of which after teaming up in the final pass, and very rarely on decisive rounds.
If Mbappé's 0-1 in Munich is the beginning of the collaboration for which their Qatari owners paid so much and expected, PSG will approach the conquest of the first Champions League in its history.
Pochettino will then have a share of the merit.
The coach who arrived at Christmas has not managed to give the team a trace, but he has managed to instill in his players a primordial sense of camaraderie and solidarity that they did not have.
Especially Neymar in relation to Mbappé, whom for years he treated with disdain or indifference.
34 million euros net
Now it seems that they understand each other.
Just as both are advancing towards the conclusion of their contracts, in June 2022. If Mbappé has not shown signs of wanting to renew - he aspires to win as much as Neymar and PSG offered him just over half, due to financial control - the The Brazilian seems resigned to settling into the only club that accepts his way of life.
As his agent Wagner Ribeiro said in
: ”No club in the world can offer Neymar what PSG offers him.
Only PSG can pay him 34 million euros net per season.
Madrid has financial problems;
the Barça is worse still;
in Italy there is no rival;
and I don't think I'm going to United or City ”.
It is unlikely that PSG will be able to keep Mbappé and Neymar together beyond 2022. "Our goal is to win the title, not go to the semi-final," warned Pochettino, who must attend the usual Parisian signs of complacency and time is running out. exhausts.
The chances are over for one of the most promising couples in the history of football to decide whether to produce something truly great or to settle in the collective imagination as a lavish marketing operation without more.
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