How Mbappe's World Cup Heroics Changed Neymar's Attitude
Kylian Mbappe and Neymar Jr
When Neymar left Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain in August 2017 for a world-record transfer fee of €222 million, one of the reasons for doing so was the prospect of being his new team’s undisputed star player.
The tricky attacker often found himself overshadowed by Lionel Messi at Camp Nou, but there was little doubt he would be PSG’s main man – or so it seemed.
Yet fast-forward a little over 12 months and Neymar once more finds himself at risk of being outshone by a team-mate, with Kylian Mbappe making as many – if not more – headlines as his illustrious attacking partner.
Mbappe played a key role in France’s run to 2018 World Cup glory in Russia with a number of scintillating performances and “the boy from Bondy” has rapidly become a fan favourite in Paris, with his quadruple in the 5-0 Ligue 1 win over Lyon at the weekend further cementing his reputation as one of the best players in the world.
Neymar is determined not to give up his status as PSG’s star name easily, however, and has realised he might need a change of behaviour off the pitch to stay ahead of Mbappe in the pecking order.
The 26-year-old was instrumental in Dani Alves’ arrival at the club last year, but had since gone relatively quiet behind the scenes.
That has changed in recent months, though, with Neymar trying to convince Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba to join him in the French capital as he aims to help president Nasser Al-Khelaifi in building a team that can win the Champions League.
But the boardroom is not the only place where we have seen a changed Neymar, with the Brazil captain also changing his approach when it comes to media appearances.
He had been reluctant to speak to the media ever since joining PSG and seemingly made a sport out of dodging journalists, with his official unveiling following his move from Barcelona his only major press appearance of 2017-18, but he has stepped it up a notch in the publicity department this term.
The former Santos ace appeared alongside Thomas Tuchel for the pre-match media conference ahead of the 6-1 Champions League win over Red Star Belgrade, opening up on all sorts of topics, including his relationship with his head coach, his role on the pitch and PSG’s general ambitions in 2018-19.
Additionally, Neymar has been making regular appearances in the mixed zone after games this season, a welcome change to what reporters had got accustomed to from the gifted attacker.
Neymar’s increased desire to get involved in proceedings at Parc des Princes both on and off the pitch and establish himself as the main man at PSG seems good news for Al-Khelaifi and the club’s hierarchy.
The attacker has privately stated on more than one occasion that he dreams of playing for Real Madrid one day, but he seems to be in no rush to leave PSG at this stage following recent developments.
A move to the Santiago Bernabeu might still be in the back of his mind, but for now, it is all about staying ahead of Mbappe in the pecking order for Neymar.