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Paris Saint-Germain manager Thomas Tuchel has praised record signing Neymar as “the leader we hoped for” amid the Brazilian’s prolific return to form at the Parc des Princes following injury.
Neymar, 27, has missed 13 games this season through injury or suspension, but he can break the PSG record for goals scored in consecutive matches if he nets for a ninth successive match at Lorient on Sunday.
Tuchel spoke at apress conferenceahead of Sunday’s Coupe de France round-of-32 clash against Lorient and hailed his attacking talisman as a leader, despite his reputation at PSG having been at an all-time low not long ago:
“There are a lot of words to describe Neymar. But the best way of describing him is to watch the games. He is very decisive for us, he closes spaces, he defends. He is the leader we hoped for and it’s a really good time for him. The challenge is to keep going, to employ the same effort, the way of working and the mindset. It is good but it is just the beginning. It is only January.”
Neymar—who joined from Barcelona in 2017 for €222 million—was strongly rumoured to be on his way out of PSG in the summer of 2019. Club president Nasser Al-Khelaifi told France Football(h/t Goal’sChris Burton) in June that “nobody forced him” to sign amid reports the player was agitating for an exit.
The South American scored in a seventh straight match when PSG drew 3-3 at AS Monaco on Sunday (UK viewers only):
He extended that streak with a penalty in the 4-1 away win in the reverse fixture against Monaco—which had been rearranged from December after bad weather forced a postponement—three days later.
Kylian Mbappe recently tied with Carlos Bianchi as the only other player to score in eight consecutive games for PSG, the latter having held the record since the 1978-79 campaign.
Neymar can set a new benchmark following his spot-kick at the Stade Louis II on Wednesday. Statman Dave hailed a decisive display that also included an injury-time assist to Mbappe:
He wasbooed by his own fansat the Parc des Princes when he made his first start of the season against Strasbourg in September, with some even continuing to jeer after he scored a sensational 92nd-minute winner.
In spite of any perceptions of Neymar as a selfish player, his assist record in Ligue 1 this season shows evidence of a more generous character:
Tuchel dodged questions regarding Neymar’s tenure in Paris during the summer and told reporters in August that it wasn’t his job to speculate on the forward’s future:
Mbappe told France Football (h/tGet French Football News) in December he was upset to hear reports of a rivalry between him and his team-mate, whom he added he was “always here to help.”
Neymar has a contract with PSG until June 2022. It hasn’t always looked likely he would stay at the club for that long, but his recent turnaround could alter those expectations.