Neymar's new lease of life

Paris Saint-Germain forward Neymar celebrating his debut goal and his club's third against French Ligue 1 side Guingamp with Uruguayan striker Edinson Cavani. The Brazilian international will be hoping to fire PSG to Champions League glory this seaso
Paris Saint-Germain forward Neymar celebrating his debut goal and his club's third against French Ligue 1 side Guingamp with Uruguayan striker Edinson Cavani. The Brazilian international will be hoping to fire PSG to Champions League glory this season.PHOTO: REUTERS

PSG star proclaims he's 'more alive than ever' after scoring goal in belated Ligue 1 debut

PARIS • Neymar wasted no time in making an impact on the field for Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), scoring on his debut in a 3-0 win at Guingamp and declaring he felt "more alive than ever".

The Brazilian world-record signing was handed a start by coach Unai Emery for the game in Brittany, two days after the international clearance came through for his €222 million (S$356 million) switch from Barcelona.

The 25-year-old, at home in PSG's all-yellow change kit, played a part in the own goal scored by Jordan Ikoko that gave the away side the lead early in the second half.

He then set up the second goal for Edinson Cavani with a superb pass in behind the Guingamp defence, before completing a comfortable victory with his team's third goal eight minutes from the end as PSG made it two wins from two to start the French season.

"People think that leaving Barca is to die, but no, it's the opposite," Neymar told reporters. "I'm more alive than ever. I play, I'm very happy, and football is the same. Only the country, the city and the team change, but football is the same."

Guingamp coach Antoine Kombouare, a former PSG player, described Neymar as a "phenomenon".

"It's been a long time since I have seen such a phenomenon. All his team-mates want to play with him and he brings competition," said Kombouare. "Everyone gets more time because of him, he can accelerate and make a difference.

  • NEYMAR'S DEBUT IN NUMBERS

  • GOAL

    ASSIST

    SHOTS

    16 ONE-ON-ONE DUELS

    64 TOUCHES IN THE CENTRE THIRD, the most in his career

"We're happy that we don't have to play PSG every weekend."

Despite the many distractions of the last couple of weeks, including trips to China, Portugal and the French Riviera, and glitzy presentations to the media and PSG fans, Neymar lasted the full 90 minutes.

He had taken the place of Javier Pastore in the PSG side in the only change from last week's 2-0 win over Amiens, completing a €350 million front three with fellow South Americans Cavani and Angel di Maria.

Neymar was one of four Brazilians in the PSG line-up, not including Brazil-born Italy midfielder Thiago Motta, for the game which was played before a sell-out crowd at the 18,000-capacity Stade du Roudourou.

Guingamp, a sleepy little town 500km west of Paris with a population of barely 7,000, may have been a slightly incongruous setting for such an occasion, but the match was broadcast live in more than 180 countries.

That was a sign of the interest generated worldwide by Neymar's move, which Qatar-owned PSG hope will help them conquer Europe after so far coming up short in the Champions League.

Emery's side are also desperate to regain the French crown after losing out to Monaco last season.

"I'm very happy. The team played well and I played well," Neymar told French TV channel Canal Plus after the game.

"It is always very important to score, not just in the first game. This is a very big challenge, for me as a person, but we have a great team."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 15, 2017, with the headline 'Neymar's new lease of life'. Print Edition | Subscribe