PSG’s card against Montpellier, Saturday during matchday 2 of Ligue 1 (5-2), was marred by a concern between Kylian Mbappé and Neymar when taking a penalty. The Brazilian added a layer in the nets after the match. Which upset the Parisian management, which cut off its two stars the next day.
What is this “penalty gate”?
As its name suggests, this is a story… of sorrows. In this case, one of those obtained by PSG against Montpellier, on Saturday at the Parc des Princes, during matchday 2 of Ligue 1 (5-2). On a goal by Lionel Messi, the referee whistled for a handball to a Montpellier defender in the area in the 43rd minute. Just before halftime. Paris then won 1-0 and Neymar grabbed the ball to go for the penalty. But Kylian Mbappé, who had missed one moments before, came to talk to the Brazilian. As if to invite him to let him try his luck again, no doubt in the hope of catching up. The dialogue lasted a few seconds between the two men, without a gesture of humor or aggressiveness. But with a quite palpable shame. Under the gaze of a circumspect stadium.
Finally, Mbappé walked away and Neymar converted this famous penalty, with his usual serenity. The PSG number 10 (congratulated by Mbappé in the process) is one of the most successful in the world in this exercise. His slow running, his gaze locked on the goalkeeper’s and his ability to place the ball where he wants it, until the very last moment, make him an especially formidable shooter. After the meeting, the 30-year-old star also called him back on the networks, indirectly addressing Mbappé in passing. Neymar “liked” several messages on Twitter from Internet users who claimed that he took penalties better than his French teammate. Which confirms the discomfort that can be seen on the field and triggers this “penaltigate”.
Who should take this penalty?
Christophe Galtier has chosen not to establish a hierarchy for next season in terms of penalty takers. The PSG coach will decide game after game, depending on the context and the form of the players. For this poster against Montpellier, Galtier had designated Mbappé as shooter n°1 and Neymar as n°2. The 55-year-old coach explained it himself at a press conference. The Blues striker therefore logically scored the first penalty of the afternoon, but missed. Neymar then decided to take responsibility by taking the second penalty, and converted it. It remains to be seen if the Brazilian was planned to do so in case the Frenchman misses his first attempt. It is not clear at this level.
How did PSG solve the case?
The management of the capital club did not take long to manage the problem. From Sunday, the day after the game, coach Christophe Galtier and sports consultant Luis Campos brought Neymar and Kylian Mbappé together. Burst the abscess without waiting, in a fair and pragmatic way. During this exchange, revealed by Le Parisien and confirmed by RMC Sport, Campos reminded the two stars that his behavior should never hinder the team’s performance. And that if there was a disagreement over a sports pick, it had to be resolved internally. Not on the grass, in front of everyone.
A way to remind Neymar and Mbappé that PSG now attaches special importance to discipline. The egos, CVs and names of the protagonists do not matter. Neymar has admitted that his activity on social networks can offend. The Brazilian and the French did not want to outbid and the incident was quickly closed. Internally, the champions of France even believe that it is a “no deal”.
Is this the first time?
No, it is not the first time that two PSG stars have fought over a penalty. The problem arose in September 2017 during a League match against OL (2-0). And Neymar was already in the game. At the time, the Brazilian crack, arrived during the summer from FC Barcelona (for 222 million euros, the most expensive transfer in football history), had fought with Edinson Cavani. The Uruguayan striker, designated as number 1 shooter by coach Unai Emery, had to defend himself against Neymar when he went to try his luck against the goalkeeper. And he had failed his attempt…
Something to talk about a lot. Especially since the Brazilian defender Daniel Alves had taken a ball from Cavani in that same game to give it to Neymar during a free kick obtained by PSG. This first “penaltygate” had not been the subject of any rethinking by the management. Result: the incident had left its mark and tarnished the relationship between the two players involved.
How do Mbappé and Neymar get along?
They arrived together in Paris in the summer of 2017. Neymar was then one of the great players on the planet at Barça and Mbappé a rising star at Monaco. And the two gifted people quickly hit it off, on and off the field. With big smiles and a well-defined hierarchy, in which the young Mbappé lets King Neymar, six years older than him, shine. But over the years, as the French rose to power, the statutes grew closer. And the relationship seemed a little fresher. However, he remained cordial, at least on the surface, until Neymar’s recent ‘likes’.
But the events of the weekend lead to questions about the relationship that the two aces currently have. Would the disputes be purely sporting or are there more personal reasons behind them? Some have raised the possibility that Mbappé may have demanded Neymar’s departure at the beginning of the summer. True or not, the rumor may well have affected the former Santos prodigy, who would not necessarily have been retained by PSG in the event of a satisfactory offer from another club.
Other concerns on the horizon?
Officially, the “penaltygate” is closed. Until the next episode. Galtier and Campos, who were also hired to clean the red and blue house, moved quickly to douse the embers. But nothing says that there will not be others in the coming weeks. During the next meetings, the attitudes of Neymar and Mbappé will be scrutinized in the smallest details. Let’s see how the two players digest things.
And above all, what will happen the next time Paris scores a penalty? On this subject, Galtier will have to impose his choices and clarify the situation at each outing, to leave no room for doubt. Waiting for his instructions to be respected, without anger or resentment. Although they are not necessarily the best friends in the world, Neymar and Mbappé know how to put their talent at the service of the team. They have tested it extensively in the past. We will have to see if they still want it, one and the other. PSG want to believe that this is the case. Your future success certainly depends on it.
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