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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.

Rumored Neymar for Bale swap: Who wins?

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Who would gain more of an advantage from the rumored, sensational Gareth Bale for Neymar swap: Paris Saint-Germain or Real Madrid?

Both players are currently problems for their clubs, though neither is known as a true rabble-rouser; Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane wants to be done with the newly-minted 30-year-old Bale, while PSG knows Neymar wants to leave and would love to satiate Kylian Mbappe’s appetite to be the man at their club.

[ REPORT: Man Utd, Leicester agree Maguire fee ]

Presumably some money would be headed PSG’s way in addition to Bale, and both clubs would be getting a motivated megawatt star.

Neymar doesn’t turn 28 until February, but the difference in age may be offset by the Brazilian’s track record of injuries.

In fact, his injury status last season combines with an off-field accusation of sexual assault and a red card for confronting a fan to overshadow his production: Neymar’s 23 goals and 13 assists in just over 2300 minutes last season, including five and two in the Champions League (and a goal and an assist against defensively-stout Liverpool).

Bale presents very few personality challenges, and PSG won’t have a problem with his massive wages (especially with Neymar off the books). His numbers have dipped in two of three seasons since his otherworldly 2015-16, but La Liga is a more difficult scoring league than Ligue 1.

Neymar has twice been a Ballon d’Or finalist and, presuming his legal troubles don’t persist, could be a title fight changer in La Liga. Imagine the Neymar, Eden Hazard, and Luka Jovic trying to outgun Lionel Messi, Antoine Griezmann, and Luis Suarez? Insane.

We’d say Real would be winning the straight-up swap, and that it’s pretty unlikely to go down that way. So it depends what PSG does with the relative Financial Fair Play freedom that would come with the money that also arrives from Spain. Is it Idrissa Gana Gueye? Someone else who helps take PSG’s Champions League hopes to the next level?

Who will make Ballon d’Or final three?

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When Luka Modric won the Ballon d’Or last summer, marking the first victor neither named Lionel Messi nor Cristiano Ronaldo since 2007, it threatened to signal a new era for the trophy in more ways than one.

Ronaldo didn’t win the honors, finishing second, but Messi was inexplicably left off the final ballot altogether.

[ MORE: De Ligt joins Juve ]

Could this be the year that neither makes the top three? Probably not, but it could be the first time Ronaldo fails to make the list since Barca swept the honors Messi, Andres Iniesta, Xavi in 2010.

So while most of us are not thinking of the award right now, Ronaldo has it on his brain. It’s no surprise that Marca, known for its backing of Real Madrid royalty, has thrown his name in the mix as a “favorite” given his scudetto with Juventus. That it mentions his performance in the UEFA Nations League is a little goofy — it was a two-match summer — but such is life.

Ronaldo and Messi are deadlocked on five Ballons d’Or, the most ever, and Messi’s year was superior to his longtime rival. Both won their leagues and Messi did not claim domestic honors at the Copa America — in fact he was not his phenomenal self — but Messi scored 12 goals in 10 Champions League appearances before Liverpool stunned Barcelona prior to the final (Ronaldo’s Juve lost to Ajax).

Marca proffers this “I don’t care but obviously I very much care” from CR7:

“I don’t live with an obsession about awards,” Ronaldo explained. “My numbers don’t lie, this year I’ve won three titles and I’ve been good in the Nations League. What else can I do?”

Ronaldo, it should be noted, was still incredible last season. He scored all three goals as Juventus erased a 2-0 first leg deficit in the UCL Round of 16 versus old rivals Atletico Madrid, then scored in both legs of the side’s exit via Ajax. And he likely would’ve won the top scorer’s prize in Italy had he not missed six matches through injury and rest.

Messi again breached the half-century mark in goals, scoring 51 times in all competitions for Barcelona. He chipped in 22 assists and also missed six matches between the UCL and La Liga.

Are there three players who could surpass both to make a new final three?

It would be stunning if Liverpool and Netherlands center back Virgil Van Dijk was kept off the top three, while Sadio Mane may have a Champions League crown and Africa Cup of Nations victory. And you can follow the Luka Modric logic to a land where treble- and Nations League-winning Bernardo Silva is in the discussion (Raheem Sterling was also great).

Kylian Mbappe had probably the best-looking season on Earth, scoring 39 times with 17 assists in 43 matches and navigating the attention that came with Neymar’s long-term absence by shouldering the burden to great success. We made the argument that his 19 goals and six assists in 23 Neymar-free matches is one of the prime reasons he’s be worth almost any transfer fee.

Also remember that the odds of the captains of international teams having enough ballots without Ronaldo and/or Messi named is very difficult to imagine.

Still, Messi, Mbappe, and Van Dijk seems like the final three to us. What do you think?

Report: Neymar told PSG he wants to leave

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If Neymar has his way, his sojourn to Paris will end after two largely impressive, yet unsatisfying seasons for him.

According to a report in UOL Esporte from Brazil, in a conversation with Paris Saint-Germain sporting director Leonardo, a fellow Brazilian, Neymar told Leonardo that he desired to leave PSG this summer. If true, it’s the latest strong rumor and report that Neymar is serious about leaving Paris before accomplishing his goal of winning the FIFA Ballon d’Or.

[READ: 2019 Women’s World Cup by the numbers]

This latest report is important because Neymar didn’t arrive on day one of preseason training for PSG on Monday. PSG claim that it was caught off guard by this and were surprised he didn’t show up. Neymar and his handlers, on the other hand, say that they told PSG previously that Neymar has some functions to attend to and won’t arrive in Paris until next week.

In addition, Neymar is coming off a serious ankle injury suffered on international duty in early June and could in theory still need time to recover.

The bookies favorites these days are for Neymar to return to Barcelona, but it just seems nearly impossible to imagine Barca signing both Neymar and Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann. For Financial Fair Play reasons, Barca would have to offload many of their players just to afford the pair when considering yearly salary and transfer fee.

The Neymar transfer saga appears prime to go down to the wire as both clubs negotiate through intermediaries before an agreement is reached. But could Neymar speed things up if he doesn’t show up at all? Or will PSG treat him like Adrian Rabiot last year, and leave him benched.

For PSG, Neymar still has 3 years left on his contract and is still an absolute star in Ligue 1 and the side’s best chance of winning a Champions League title. Losing him, no matter the return, leaves a giant hole that’s difficult to replace in terms of production. However, his off the field antics may just make PSG bite it’s tongue and let him go.

Absent Neymar provokes strong reaction from PSG

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Neymar didn’t show up to Paris Saint-Germain preseason, and the French champions are salty.

PSG released a statement on Monday regarding Neymar’s unannounced absence from camp, as a move away from Paris seems to be on the menu.

[ MORE: What we learned about the USMNT this summer ]

Neymar has been linked with a return to Barcelona and the world record transfer-raiser looks like he’s ready to engineer a move following a terrible year which included plenty of injuries and an allegation of sexual assault.

Let’s see what level of anger is living at PSG right now:

Paris Saint-Germain deplores this situation and will take the appropriate measures resulting from it.

Yeah, that’s threat level red, friends.

There are few teams on Earth that can afford Neymar, who is also 27 and has struggled to stay healthy for club and country.

And any suitor would need swap pieces, too, especially if it’s a club like Real Madrid or Barca who’ve already spent healthy sums this summer.

Again, rousing the rabble, I still think there’s a Pogba-for-Neymar swap possibility…