While Neymar gets both the #whenhealthy and #whenavailable tags to his rep, he’s scored 18 times with 10 assists in 22 matches across all competitions this year.
Before the full phrase ‘Ligue 1’ exits your lips, he’s scored against Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Celtic, Galatasaray, Liverpool, Anderlecht, and Red Star Belgrade in his three seasons with PSG.
Griezmann is a full year older than Neymar and, while one of the world’s elite attackers, he’s a step below the Brazilian’s tier. He’s also said to want to keep finding his way at Barca, with Gerard Pique and others ready to lend support.
So we’re wondering: Who’s the best player you’ve ever seen live? Hit up the comments section with your takes, and allow me to walk you through mine.
International: It’s August 10, 2010 at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, and your United States men’s national team is taking the field for the first time since Ghana ended the World Cup dreams of Bob Bradley’s boys with a 2-1 defeat in Rustenberg.
The vibe at the AO tailgate is lively, friends from all over the country gathered in the Garden State to see the hosts welcome a Brazil side that blew a halftime lead against the Netherlands to bow out in the World Cup quarterfinals.
It’s fortunate that the AO seats that wound up in my hands were a few rows behind Tim Howard, because that was the end to see most of the first half.
Brazil left Kaka and Luis Fabiano at home, which begged what they might’ve done with those two pulling the strings. It’s not worth too much debate, because Mano Menezes’ Starting XI included Robinho, Ramires, David Luiz, Thiago Silva, Dani Alves, and Alexandre Pato and a kid making his international debut.
His name was Neymar, and any hopes of the youngster being humbled by the big crowd and his first cap were dashed immediately. While it wasn’t the virtuoso show we’d see so many times in Barcelona, PSG, and Brazil shirts moving forward, it was clear this kid had it.
The thumping header at the back post meant it took less than a half-hour for Neymar Jr. to show us his first of 61 senior goals and counting for Brazil. He was young, naive, unrefined… and electric.
Club: This one’s more difficult, if only because the majority of the senior action I’ve seen in person has been in Major League Soccer, with a few jaunts overseas. There’s always a ‘guy’ who stands out, though, per game, whether a young and gigantic Andy Carroll for Newcastle at Stoke in 2009, Niklas Dorsch running the midfield for Heidenheim in relegating Duisburg from the Bundesliga last Spring, or Frank Lampard and Kaka dueling in Orlando a few years earlier.
But the most dominant forces I’ve seen on a consistent basis have both had ties to Canada. On the MLS side, any chance to see Sebastian Giovinco for Toronto FC at BMO Field was a chance to catch a firefly, but in terms of sheer dominance I’m looking to the ladies.
Christine Sinclair was the best player on a loaded Western New York Flash roster when I was their play-by-play man during the 2011 WPS season. Now the all-time leading scorer amongst women, Sinclair punished teams that season and stood out despite a roster that included Marta, Alex Morgan, Caroline Seger, Ashlyn Harris, and McCall Zerboni amongst others.
Sinclair scored in regulation of a final against Philadelphia that went to penalty kicks, and converted her spot kick, too. If Zlatan is a lion, she’s part of the same pride. A force.
College/Amateur: Before my alma mater unceremoniously cut men’s soccer, the University at Buffalo played in the Mid American Conference and delivered all sorts of high drama. The highlight was usually the visit of Akron, a national champion who had been neck-and-neck with the Buffalo Bulls in the 2000s before putting a stranglehold on the rivalry. UB was the runner-up to Akron in 2015 and 2016 behind a brilliant team featuring now-USL player Russell Cicerone and a future New Zealand club captain in Fox Slotemaker. The 2016 season gives us our story.
The Zips had a freshman on the right side who was almost always in the right place, with mind-bending pace to help with the times he was caught astray. Jonathan Lewis had spent a season abroad with Bradford City before opting for school, and he was a one-and-done in Ohio after recording 12 assists, one in that game. I’ve seen some incredible college talents, but Lewis was the best by a good margin. He’s now earned six USMNT caps and 48 MLS appearances between NYCFC and Colorado at the age of 22.
The fans brought the atmosphere outside the stadium during and after the match, dodging coronavirus fears and governmental advice.
Kylian Mbappe, Neymar, Angel Di Maria and a host of PSG players then climbed atop the stadium to salute the supporters as they partied into the night.
PSG’s players also caught plenty of flak for celebrations in their locker room, as Mbappe and other posted video mocking BVB star Erling Haaland’s yoga goal celebration.
Back to the partying with the fans… the club sure leaned into it on social media. PSG is pulling out all the stops to build momentum in a competition that has not seen them reach a semifinal this century.
Bernat then flicked a Pablo Sarabia cross past Burki before halftime to give Les Parisiens some comfort. BVB would need to score twice.
Mbappe entered with 27 minutes to play after suffering with the flu earlier in the week.
And BVB opted for an American teen, with Reyna coming on for his second career UCL appearance. His first appearance produced an assist against PSG. This one did not yield a marker, but Reyna impressed again with smart dribbling and fine distribution (92 percent passing, 1/1 dribbles, 2/2 duels, one tackle).
Julian Brandt had a pair of second-half chances to force extra time, but was off with his efforts.
After Paris Saint-Germain fell 2-1 at Borussia Dortmund in the first leg of their Champions League meeting at Westfalenstadion, star winger Neymar has gone on record blasting his own club for keeping him on the sidelines too long.
The Brazilian had missed the last four Ligue 1 games officially with a rib injury, but according to the man himself he was ready to go.
“It is hard after four games without playing,” Neymar said after the loss, going after his own club. “It was not my choice not to play, the club took this decision. The club made this decision with the medical team. I wanted to play, I felt good. The club was afraid, and it is I who suffers from it.”
Neymar scored his team’s only goal – a valuable away goal – and was effective one-on-one in the attacking third, completing three take-ons and creating three chances. However, he struggled to link up with teammates, completing just 13 of his 27 attacking-third passes and only one of five attempted inside the penalty area.
All told, PSG’s potent attack of Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, and Angel Di Maria was held to just 0.58 expected goals on nine shots outside of Neymar’s converted effort.The French side was expected to trouble the Dortmund back line much more given the hosts had struggled defensively leading up to the game. The Dortmund defense had conceded at least three goals twice in Bundesliga play since the start of 2020 and once more in DFB-Pokal competition.
Neymar has been an absolute menace on the field this season, scoring 16 goals and assisting 10 more in 19 games across all competitions, but he has again missed significant time with nagging injuries or suspensions. The Brazilian has been sidelined for 21 games this season for various reasons, including four in Champions League play and another 11 in Ligue 1 competition. Before Tuesday in Germany, the club’s only two losses this season had come with Neymar looking on.