The authentic Neymar begins to appear with the PSG team near the World Cup

Was that Neymar?

He had to blink and look closely again. Sure enough, it was the Brazilian, running like a bullet down the left flank in stoppage time in search of keeping the ball in play during the 1-1 draw that his Paris Saint-Germain had to settle for against Monaco at the Parque de los Princes on Sunday.

Neymar, the pampered prince of PSG for so many years, working tirelessly like everyone else on the pitch. That one, he’s not misreading.

In what must be great news for Brazil ahead of the World Cup in Qatar, a slender Neymar looks in better shape than in recent years, when he was dwarfed by physical neglect, lifestyle questions and martyrdom by persistent foot injuries.

Since he landed in the French capital with a record transfer of 222 million euros (at the time 222 million dollars) in 2017, Neymar has barely played 92 Ligue 1 games out of a possible 190. Very little.

There was a time when Neymar’s attitude was widely criticized for his propensity to provoke his rivals with his tricks or for asking his teammates to pass the ball, only to be left in debt when PSG needed him most in La Liga. of Champions.

That seems to have changed.

He no longer goes overboard when taking the ball and he doesn’t roll on the pitch either, as happened in the 2018 World Cup and in every season with PSG, except this one.

Neymar’s attitude has changed in such a way that he ended up acting as a peacemaker in the final stages against Monaco when several players got involved in a struggle.

And we must not forget that he is scoring many goals.

The penalty he converted against Monaco left him with eight goals in five games, including the French Super Cup at the start of the season. He has also provided six assists, so he has been involved in almost three goals per game.

The sports newspaper L’Equipe has him well above with an average of 8 out of 10 in its annual ranking of players, one point more than the Argentine star Lionel Messi.

“He is the one who puts the balance in front of the attack,” PSG coach Christophe Galtier said of Neymar.

At 30 years old, with Galtier tightening the nuts of the squad, Neymar seems to be close to his best version, which is an incentive for Brazil heading to the World Cup, in which the spotlights will point to him. In Qatar, Neymar could even break Pelé’s record for most goals with the national team, of 77. Right now, Neymar has 74.

Neymar has also teamed up with Messi again as they did in their heyday with Barcelona, ​​where they formed one of the best attacking trios in recent history — the MSN — with Uruguayan Luis Suarez.

Now it’s the MNM — Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappé — giving opposing defenses nightmares. In four league games, PSG have scored 18 goals, with Messi and Mbappe sharing seven between them.

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It helps that Galtier has made Neymar play further forward, in a range of between 30 and 40 metres. This means that Neymar doesn’t have to go back too far to recover the ball and has more freedom to launch attacks, something that didn’t work out in recent seasons due to his injuries and less than ideal physical condition.

It was what allowed him to go after that ball in agony on Sunday.

FOYTH AND AN UNTIMELY INJURY

Juan Foyth, a defender who was well regarded by Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni for Qatar due to his versatility, suffers from a left knee injury that could relegate him in the competition for a place on the 26-man squad.

The Villarreal footballer suffered a bruise with inflammation in his left knee in the duel against Getafe for La Liga, according to the medical report of the Spanish club. As a month of recovery is estimated, Foyth would not make it to the friendlies that the Albiceleste will play against Honduras and Jamaica at the end of September in the United States, two tests that will serve Scaloni to fill the few places available on the squad.

Although Foyth is not a starter in Argentina, his double status as winger and defender gave him an advantage over other defenders who also aspire to the World Cup, such as Lucas Martínez Quarta, Marcos Senesi and Nehuén Pérez.

THE NEW BELGIAN PEARL

Charles De Ketelaere could be what Belgium needs to shake off the label of eternal world champion contender.

The 21-year-old attacking midfielder has excelled in his first three games for Italian champions Milan. He is compared to Kaká, a Rossonero idol in the 2000s.

Baby-faced with blond hair, De Ketelaere — or “CDK” as he’s called — has lit up the San Siro with his crosses and the assist on Milan’s first goal in a 2-0 win over Bologna on Saturday as he started for the first time since arriving from Bruges for an outlay of 32 million euros ($32.5 million).

Paolo Maldini, the legendary former Milan captain and current sporting director, made the signing of the Belgian a priority when the transfer market opened.

“Charles exudes a lot of class,” said Milan coach Stefano Pioli. “He has already shown very good things, he is intelligent and will continue to grow.”

Although De Ketelaere has scored just one goal in eight games for Belgium, he joins a side that already boasts the quality of midfielder Kevin De Bruyne and a natural goalscorer in Romelu Lukaku.

Currently guarding Brazil, the Belgians have been at or near the top of the FIFA rankings in recent years. They come from obtaining a third place in the 2018 tournament.

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