Neymar must rise to leading man role at PSG
Neymarâ€™s performances at Paris Saint-Germain in the early stages of his career at the French club look to have already justified his world-record fee.
The Brazilian opted to end his time with Barcelona after four seasons with the Catalan outfit. Since pulling on the blue and red of PSG, the 25-year-old has been simply outstanding.
It can be difficult for players to live up to expectations after a high-profile move. Paul Pogba took a season to settle back into life at Manchester United following his ÂŁ90m transfer last year.
However, Neymar lifted the pressure on his shoulders immediately by notching a debut goal against Guingamp. Since then he has found the net five more times, including strikes against Celtic and Bayern Munich in the Champions League.
The strikeforce of Neymar, Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappe looks almost unstoppable, echoing shades of the Brazilianâ€™s partnership with Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi at Barcelona.
The ease in which Unai Emeryâ€™s men brushed aside Bayern in their Champions League clash highlighted the clubâ€™s potential in their bid to win the crown for the first time.
Whether the quality of their front three will be enough to overcome holders Real Madrid or even Barcelona remains to be seen. Even teams such as Chelsea could have a legitimate stake for the Champions League title after their impressive win over Atletico Madrid, having not been considered capable of beating Diego Simeoneâ€™s men on the road byÂ Oddscheckerâ€™s tips.
It will take a complete effort from all concerned in the PSG ranks to deliver the crown the supporters along with the clubâ€™s owners crave.
Neymar has been the gamechanger and his effect has already been felt in Ligue 1. Emeryâ€™s side won their five matches with him in the side with ease. When injury forced him out of their clash against Montpellier on the road, Mbappe, Cavani and Julian Draxler failed to make a breakthrough.
Although the French outfit are stocked with talent, with Angel di Maria struggling for game time, Neymar is the world-class operator that could take them to glory. The Brazilian highlighted his talent in the early stages of the game against Bayern.
He cut open the German sideâ€™s backline before playing Dani Alves into acres of space to fire PSG ahead at the Parc des Princes. His speed on the break and ability to make fools of defenders has always been a hallmark of his play.
However, the space afforded to him and the refinement of those tools during his four years playing for Barcelona at the Camp Nou have served him in good stead to take over as the leading man for PSG. In Spain, he played second fiddle behind Messi, but now faces the challenge of driving Emeryâ€™s men forward in Europeâ€™s elite competition.
During the 2014 World Cup, he played very well in the same position for Brazil, only to suffer an injury in the quarter-finals of the tournament. He was powerless to watch his side were hammered by Germany in the semi-finals, ending the Selecao’s ambition to win the tournament on home soil.
Neymar was frustrated by that experience and will be eager to prove that he can match the feats of Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo to be the spearhead of a drive towards the European crown.
He will need the support of his team-mates throughout his time in Paris. Messi proved that he needed players of the calibre of Andres Iniesta and Xavi to supply him through the middle along with Suarez and Neymar to ease the pressure on him. The same can be said for Ronaldo during Madridâ€™s recent success with Gareth Bale, Luka Modric and Karim Benzema playing pivotal roles.
Neymar has already struck up a rapport with Mbappe during his limited playing time with the Frenchman. His relationship with Cavani has appeared to get off to a rocky start after a squabble over a penalty against Lyon, but both players have insisted that there is no problem.
It will be vital to keep that strikeforce on song throughout the competition as there were times against Bayern where PSGâ€™s defence looked suspect. If they get into shootouts with the best teams in the competition, the French outfit will need all three of their star men fit and firing throughout.
The Brazilian holds the key to it all and how he fares in his leading man role will determine PSGâ€™s success in their pursuit of their maiden Champions League crown.
Sources: bbc.co.uk / fifa.com / espnfc.com