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PSG’s Leonardo: ‘Neymar made mistakes’

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It’s been a two-year long roller coaster for Neymar.

On one hand, he’s been as good as advertised when fit. He’s scored 45 goals between Ligue 1 and the Champions League and displayed outrageous skill along the way.

[ MORE: Ligue 1 score, schedule ]

But he’s also had many gaffes, along with poorly-timed injuries. He suffered two ankle injuries in February to miss the key portion of the Champions League, which led to Paris Saint-Germain being bounced early. And in one media incident, when answering a softball question about his favorite memory in soccer, he mentioned La Remontada, or the Comeback in French, in which Barcelona completed an incredible comeback and beat PSG, 6-1, to advance in the Champions League. It was an answer that angered and upset many PSG fans.

“Neymar made mistakes,” PSG sporting director Leonardo said in an interview with RMC. “You know, I did not know him before. As the days go by, I get to know him. And I honestly think he’s a good lad with a very good foundation. And on the pitch, he’s an amazing player.”

In the background of these quotes is still the drama over what happens with Neymar. PSG paid a massive sum, more than $200 million to sign Neymar just two years ago. So far, with Barcelona constrained by Financial Fair Play, the offers from they, or even Real Madrid, haven’t risen to the level that PSG is happy with.

At the same time, PSG continues to say that the reason Neymar isn’t playing in the first team right now is because he’s still continuing his recovery from another ankle injury suffered on international duty with Brazil, right before the Copa America this past summer on home soil.

For the time being, it appears that the Neymar saga could go right down to the wire in early September.

“There are discussions for his future as you know today, but there is nothing advanced,” Leonardo said of a potential transfer for Neymar.

Fans call for Neymar’s departure as PSG beats Nimes

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PARIS (AP) Fans expressed their anger at Neymar with chants and banners demanding his departure as Paris Saint-Germain started the defense of its French league title with a 3-0 win over Nimes on Sunday.

Neymar, who reported late to training from his summer holidays and has been linked with a move away from PSG to Barcelona or Real Madrid, was not included in coach Thomas Tuchel’s squad.

Some PSG hardcore fans mocked Neymar’s behavior with one banner at the Parc des Princes saying “Get lost Neymar”.

Neymar, who became the most expensive player in the world when he moved from Barcelona to PSG for 222 million euros (about $250 million) in 2017, has made clear in recent weeks that he wants to leave the club.

In his absence, PSG dominated from the start and monopolized possession to camp in Nimes’ half of the pitch.

Edinson Cavani put the hosts in the lead from the penalty spot in the first half before Kylian Mbappe scored his 63rd league goal near the hour mark and then set up Angel Di Maria’s goal.

Mbappe was in superb form with his trademark dribbles and bursts of speed, while new signing Pablo Sarabia worked well with his teammates and delivered several good passes from the right flank which destabilized the visitors’ defense.

Nimes held out until Pablo Martinez was sanctioned for an unintentional hand ball in the box following a VAR review. Cavani took the penalty and beat goalkeeper Paul Bernardoni with a powerful strike in the 24th.

Sarabia was dangerous again in the 34th with a fine volley at the far post that drew a spectacular save from Bernardoni, and Cavani missed an easy chance from close range with a poor touch from Mbappe’s cross.

Mbappe fired the ball into the top left corner in the 57th for 2-0 after connecting with a cut-back pass from Juan Bernat, and then delivered a perfect assist to the unmarked Di Maria inside the area. The Argentina forward, who came on as a substitute, controlled the ball and beat Bernardoni with a left-footed shot for his 40th French league goal.

OSIMHEN SCORES 2

Lille forward Victor Osimhen scored twice on his French league debut to help the northern side to a 2-1 win over Nantes.

Runner-up last season behind Paris Saint-Germain, Lille hired the Nigeria striker this summer to compensate for the loss of Nicolas Pepe, who joined Arsenal.

The 20-year-old Osimhen, who scored 20 goals for Belgian side Charleroi last season after starting his professional career in the Bundesliga, showed both his athletic abilities and technical skills to put the hosts in the lead.

After Nantes gave the ball away in Lille’s half of the field, Osimhen collected a lofted pass with perfect chest control, pushed the ball forward with a fine touch, surged past a defender with a burst of speed and scored from close range with great composure.

After Zeki Celik’s own-goal put Nantes back in the game soon after the interval, Osimhen was decisive again with nine minutes left with a near-post finish from Celik’s cross.

Turkish international Yusuf Yazici also made his league debut for Lille after completing his move from Trabzonspor. Although he did not score, Yazici came off the bench as a replacement for Timothy Weah to add a dose of creativity in midfield and came close with a menacing free kick which went just over the bar in the 78th minute.

More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Neymar: Rape investigation closed; fan files lawsuit for violent outburst

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PARIS (AP) The Rennes supporter who was hit in the face by Neymar last season has filed a lawsuit against the Brazil star.

The fan’s lawyer, Philippe Ohayon, told L’Equipe newspaper that his client, whose identity has not been revealed, decided to take legal action after a meeting between members of Neymar’s entourage and the alleged victim failed to ease tensions.

Ohayon was not immediately available for further comment.

The Paris Saint-Germain striker was given a three-game ban for lashing out at the fan following a loss in the French Cup final in April. After Rennes beat PSG 6-5 on penalties following a 2-2 draw in the final at the Stade de France, Neymar reacted angrily (WATCH HERE) to the man who was filming and verbally goading players as they walked up the stairs to collect their runner-up medals. Neymar exchanged a few words with the supporter and then raised his hand to him.

In a separate case, a Brazilian judge accepted a recommendation from prosecutors Thursday to close the investigation of Neymar on a rape allegation on the grounds of there being a lack of evidence against him. A woman had accused Neymar of raping her at a Paris hotel in May. Neymar denied the accusation and said his relations with the woman were consensual.

Mbappe ‘admires and respects’ Neymar, wants him to stay at PSG

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Kylian Mbappe has spoken out in support of current teammate Neymar amid rumors flying of the Brazilian’s discontent at Paris Saint-Germain.

With Neymar reportedly wanting out of PSG and hoping to force a move, Mbappe has gone public in the hopes of convincing his teammate that a move is unnecessary to achieve his goals.

“He has a situation that everyone knows,” Mbappe said with the team in Shenzen, China where they are preparing to face Rennes in the Trophee des Champions, confirming what all fans could tell about the Brazilian’s unhappiness. “Of course I want him to stay. I spoke with him. He knows what I think of him and his situation. Everything is going well between us. We have a relationship based on honesty and respect. He knows that I respect him and that I admire him.”

Neymar has rejoined the squad for the event after missing nearly all of preseason, looking to rest his ankle injury but also push his way out. He cannot participate in the match, however, as he is suspended after his outburst against a fan in the aftermath of the Coupe de France final loss than ended last club season.

“When Neymar trained, he was excellent, in form. He had plenty of quality, like always,” PSG boss Thomas Tuchel said when speaking to the media. “Everything was great yesterday. Neymar is in good spirits. It’s unfortunate that he’s suspended because it would have been good to have him with us.”

Shortlist for FIFA’s Best Player of the Year announced

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The 10-man shortlist for FIFA’s Best Player of the Year award has been announced, with the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva, Neymar and Luis Suarez missing out.

[ MORE: Coach of Year shortlist ]

Four current Premier League stars feature in the top 10, with Eden Hazard who moved from Chelsea to Real Madrid over the summer also named among the nominees.

Tottenham’s Harry Kane is joined by Liverpool trio Virgil Van Dijk, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane with VVD the favorite to be crowned the top player on the planet as his dominant displays led Liverpool to UEFA Champions League glory and within one point of Manchester City in the Premier League. Van Dijk also captained the Netherlands to reach the UEFA Nations League final and led their resrurgence from central defense.

Dutch duo Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs de Ligt, who have both left Ajax this summer for Barcelona and Juventus respectively, are included after their breakout years for club and country, while superstars Kylian Mbappe, Cristiano Ronaldo (who has won the award twice in the past three seasons) and Lionel Messi make up the top 10 based on performances for club and country from 16 July 2018 to 19 July 2019.

Who is the favorite to win this award?

Van Dijk is up there, while Mbappe, Messi and Ronaldo will be among the leading contenders once again. The winner from last year, Luka Modric, isn’t included in the nominees this year and the absence of any players from Manchester City, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid (not counting Hazard) proves just how difficult it is to narrow this list down to 10 players.

Below is the list in full, as the winner will be announced on Sept. 23 at FIFA’s ceremony in Milan.

Eden Hazard – Chelsea (now Real Madrid) and Belgium
Harry Kane – Tottenham and England
Frenkie de Jong – Ajax (now Barcelona) and Holland
Matthijs de Ligt – Ajax (now Juventus) and Holland
Sadio Mane – Liverpool and Senegal
Kylian Mbappe – PSG and France
Lionel Messi – Barcelona and Argentina
Cristiano Ronaldo – Juventus and Portugal
Mohamed Salah – Liverpool and Egypt
Virgil van Dijk – Liverpool and Holland