As it stands, Neymar needs a miracle to play in Paris Saint-Germain’s Champions League clash against Real Madrid next week.
The Brazilian – a £197million signing from Barcelona over the summer (who could forget?) – was stretchered off the pitch on Sunday during PSG’s Ligue 1 match with Marseille, after clashing with Bouna Sarr (‘the new Juan Zuniga’).
And while the loss of Neymar didn’t impact the outcome of the game (the Parisians were already leading 3-0 at the time) and certainly won’t do much harm to their league ambitions (they’re currently leading Ligue 1 by 14-points with 11-games remaining) there’s some genuine concerns that it could have ramifications on their Champions League campaign.
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At first, the injury was played down by manager Unai Emery. In a press conference after the game, the PSG gaffer said: “It’s just a twist, but we will do more tests.
“He is cautious, but we must be optimistic, and if I have to say now if he will be able to play against Real Madrid, I would say yes.”
Described as an ankle injury at the time, the club’s medical staff later confirmed he suffered “a sprain of the right ankle and fissure of the fifth metatarsal”.
That sounds nasty, and having grown up in with the word ‘metatarsal’ being followed by ‘David Beckham’ and ‘World Cup’, this could be a long and stressful time for the record-signing, as well as everyone else involved with the club, including Emery.
As we all know, injuries to metatarsals are a slippery slope, with recovery time anything between six to eight weeks. According to Globoesporte, Neymar could be out until May, while PSG’s medical staff are refusing to entertain speculation for the time being.
As it stands, Neymar will almost definitely miss the upcoming second-leg of PSG’s last-16 clash against Madrid, with the Spanish giants currently leading the tie 3-1 from the first-leg.
But even with that two-goal lead, many of us still expected the Parisians to go through on the back of their impressive home form, while we’re all well aware their capable of scoring enough to overturn the aggregate deficit. After all, all they need is a 2-0 victory which they’ve matched or bettered 25 times already this term.
But now, with no Neymar – who was signed in the summer to help the club secure the Champions League title – coupled with Real’s experience and pedigree in the competition, it suddenly looks a little grim for the side who, not too long ago, harboured very-real ambitions of lifting Europe’s biggest prize.
And rightly so, with the club’s Qatari owner’s forking out an absolute fortune on players over the last few years, with Neymar the diamond of their expensively assembled line-up.
So naturally, they’ll be expecting a return on their investment in the form of silverware, especially considering their failure to secure the league title last season – having been outmatched by the youth and attacking vibrancy of Monaco – while their Champions League campaign ended in shambles at the hands of Barcelona and (ironically) Neymar.
And even before that, they suffered FOUR back-to-back knockouts at the quarter-finals stage. This competition is one they’re desperate to succeed in.
But the loss of Neymar is clearly going to be a huge psychological blow to PSG’s chances against Madrid.
After all, we all remember how badly Brazil performed in the 2014 World Cup when he picked up that nasty back injury in their quarter-final win over Colombia.
Without the forward, PSG will have to play more as a team than ever-before, but that’s easier said than done for a side that’s relied heavily on his influence and flair this season, while his tally of 26 goals and 16 assists is certainly irreplaceable on face-value.
However, there are seemingly two contenders to replace Neymar in the side and play alongside Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani in the side’s attack, in the form of Angel Di Maria and Javier Pastore.
With the sheer brilliance of the attacking trio, both Di Maria and Pastore have struggled for regular game-time this season – although Di Maria is the more favourable of the two and has enjoyed a purple patch of late, coming into the side following Mbappe’s recent injury problems.
Wednesday’s Coupe de France clash against Marseille and their weekend trip to Troyes will provide us with some insight into who Emery goes for in Neymar’s absence. But even with adequate replacements, the loss of Neymar is a nightmare scenario for the club and could genuinely make or break their season.
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Failure to progress beyond the last-16 of the Champions League will surely spell the end of Emery’s time at the club at the end of the season (while you also fear for Zidane’s job at Real if he fails in the tie).
What’s more, the club will likely continue spending big in the summer, with Philippe Coutinho (believe it or not) rumoured to be the club’s next big-money target.
As for managerial targets, the club would surely begin sniffing around the likes of Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho or Antonio Conte as their next gaffer, as their goal of winning the Champions League continues.
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