PSG fans turn on wantaway star Neymar

PARIS • Football fans vented their anger at Neymar on Sunday with chants and banners demanding his departure as Paris Saint-Germain started the defence of their French Ligue 1 title with a 3-0 home win over Nimes.

The Brazil forward reported late to training from his summer holiday and has been linked with a blockbuster transfer to former club Barcelona or Real Madrid.

He was not included in coach Thomas Tuchel's squad but that did not stop the crowd from making him the target of their ire.

One banner hung up by the hardcore Ultras fans read "Neymar, F*** off", while vulgar chants were heard around the Parc des Princes stadium.

The hosts had no trouble dispatching Nimes, with Edinson Cavani converting a penalty before further goals from Kylian Mbappe and Angel di Maria.

Tuchel told French TV channel Canal+ that he had "no news" on the former fan favourite's future and he had to "find solutions without" the Brazil star.

Neymar's team-mates were split over his potential exit. Mbappe admitted that without the world's most expensive player, who joined for €222 million (S$344.8 million) from Barcelona in 2017, it would "not be the same team".

Neymar has made it clear in recent weeks that he wants to leave PSG and on Saturday, sporting director Leonardo said talks about the player's possible sale were "more advanced than before".

The Spanish transfer window closes on Sept 2 and French media outlet RMC Sport said that Spanish champions Barcelona are hoping to make a player swop plus cash for Neymar with Philippe Coutinho heading in the opposite direction.

According to Spanish sports daily Marca, Real are also in the hunt, but talks are less advanced than their Catalan rivals, and Zinedine Zidane must also first offload Gareth Bale, James Rodriguez and Mariano Diaz to free up funds.

But if Real fail to flog Bale and Rodriguez to suitors like Bayern Munich and Napoli respectively, then the Real coach is prepared to offer them a way back into his first team.

After their 2-2 friendly draw at Roma on Sunday, Zidane said: "They are both registered, but anything can happen and I, as a coach of Real, must count on them."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, ASSOCIATED PRESS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 13, 2019, with the headline 'PSG fans turn on wantaway star Neymar'. Print Edition | Subscribe