Neymar becomes the talisman PSG dreamed of to dump Dortmund out of Champions League
The Brazilian has helped the Ligue 1 side reach the last eight for the first time since arriving in Paris in the summer of 2017 for a world record fee
The idea behind the most expensive transfer of all time was simple. Paris Saint-Germain demolished all records to activate Neymar’s Barcelona release clause in the hope that the addition of one of the world’s best players would bring them to the promised land of Champions League glory.
PSG chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi gushed at the unveiling of his €222 million (£200m/$262m) signing in 2017, calling him the best player in the world after claiming “Neymar has come to join us to write Paris Saint-Germain history.”
The Parisians have won the league twice and recorded a domestic double since the Brazilian’s arrival, but before 2020, his only notable involvement in the knockout stage of the Champions League for the club was a booking against Real Madrid in the first leg of the last 16 in his maiden season. A metatarsal injury ruled him out of the second leg as PSG lost 5-2 on aggregate.
Last season, Neymar played no part in the knockout stage thanks to a foot injury with PSG once again failing to reach the quarter finals.
This year, for the first time ever, he played in both legs of the round of 16 and his impact was enormous as PSG defeated Borussia Dortmund to reach the last eight for the first time since 2016. Neymar netted in the first leg in Dortmund but stepped up another level in the return game to become the talismanic figure PSG have long demanded.
After 28 minutes, Neymar lost his marker in the area to head home the opening goal and set the hosts on the road to a victory against one of Europe’s most exciting young teams.
He also played a crucial part in PSG’s second goal which put them ahead on aggregate in the tie. The Brazilian picked up the ball with his back to goal, turned quickly in a tight space and picked out Angel Di Maria just outside the area, who played the ball out wide before Juan Bernat’s slight touch beat Burki.
With Kylian Mbappe starting on the bench as he recovered from illness, Neymar was the player that Thomas Tuchel’s men looked to time and again to make a difference, especially in the second half as Dortmund searched for an equaliser. His clever movement and dribbling ability helped bring out the ball and relieve pressure on the team, while he also regularly dropped back to support his team-mates and win back possession.
As well as creating the most chances for the home side, Neymar was involved in more duels than his team-mates, with his fighting spirit encouraging those around him.
Often criticised for his antics, Neymar’s dark arts provoked Borussia Dortmund, first by celebrating using Erling Haaland’s trademark pose before antagonising Emre Can to get the former Juventus man sent off with time running out.
Finally, Neymar turned up for a Champions League last 16 game, proving that he can be the difference-maker they dreamed of. With this year’s competition wide open, PSG now know they can rely on him to live up to his price tag and perhaps finally bring them to that promised land they have long hoped of reaching.
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