It’s a challenge to find a more talented team in world soccer than this season’s PSG. With so many fantastic players and recent additions of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, the Parisian club should have no trouble winning its domestic trophies and could certainly win the Champions League — but that’s only if the team is gelling. Locker room problems can doom any team, and one seems to be brewing at the club between the team’s two biggest stars.
On Sunday, PSG beat Lyon 2-0 to improve to a perfect record — six wins out of six — in Ligue 1, but during the match there were two instances where there appeared to be a clash between Edison Cavani and Neymar and this has become the focus surrounding the club rather than their great form to begin the season.
First, there was a free kick opportunity that Cavani wanted to take. The Uruguayan goal-scoring machine however was rebuffed by Dani Alves, who appeared to give the ball to his countryman and teammate with Brazil, Neymar. Later, there was a penalty kick that Neymar wanted, and Cavani returned the favor by rejecting the Brazilian. They both missed:
Now, that’s not good. And it isn’t the first time it has happened this season even, having also taken place against Saint Etienne in the fourth matchday of the young season. Cavani obviously didn’t like it (would you want this guy coming after you?), but Alves shouldn’t have intervened. After the match, Alves would go on to say that he wasn’t trying to give the ball to Neymar, but just trying to take the free kick himself.
“I was going to take it myself. I took the ball to take the free kick, because I’ve already made some good ones before,” Alves told SporTV after the match. “I was confident. But that is not what is important. The key is that the team is more important than the individual. At that moment, I wanted to take charge, but Neymar took the ball and was the one who took charge.”
Alves and Neymar just arrived this summer, so they shouldn’t have much say in who takes the kicks as say a club captain or Cavani. They may feel entitled, but that could lead to some more friction. It’s also worth noting that Alves is not a terrible free kick taker himself. In fact, he scored his first PSG goal in the French Supercup against Monaco on July 29.
When it comes to penalties, Neymar has had a success rate of 80 percent (32 of 40) while Cavani is at 82 percent (46 of 56).
Unai Emery, the manager, seems to think the matter can and should be resolved internally.
“I told them to fix it among themselves. I think that both have the capability to do that and we are going to make it so they can both resolve it. If they do not agree, I will decide. I do not want it to be a problem for us,” Emery said in the post-match press conference.
Neymar seems better suited for free kicks, while Cavani should take the penalty kicks. There, I’ve decided it. It really can be that simple, but clearly one of the contenders for this year’s Champions League has some issues to resolve.