After listening to the ESPN FC panel discuss Neymar’s performance against Lille OSC on Friday night, I felt like the principal at the end of Billy Madison:
Frank Leboeuf, Craig Burley, Shaka Hislop, Alejandro Moreno, and Dan Thomas started the show surprisingly with Paris Saint-Germain’s win over Lille and made patronizing comments about the match not being worth talking about and the uncompetitiveness of Ligue 1. It should be noted that PSG has an 11 point lead and Liverpool FC has an 8 point lead in the Premier League, but I digress…
Before I tear into their comments, here is the video for you to watch:
As you just saw, Thomas opens up with a loaded question to Leboeuf about Neymar storming down the tunnel after being taken off in the 65th minute for Kylian Mbappé. Anyone who paid attention to Thomas Tuchel’s press conference would have heard the manager say that Neymar wouldn’t play 90 minutes because he’s not fully fit.
Leboeuf responds with a mind-numbing soliloquy where he tries to hurl as many insults at Neymar in the allotted time. He said Neymar displayed “strange behavior” by storming down the tunnel and appeared “annoyed” and “nervous” during the game. He goes on to say that Neymar doesn’t share anything with his teammates (see video below) and he’s not giving the best image of himself to the French people (not sure about that). He concludes by calling Neymar a “very, very annoying person.”
Marquinhos at the end 😂 pic.twitter.com/z2yoE27Hv8
— PSG Talk (@PSGTalk) September 28, 2019
Let’s address the tunnel “storming” since that is the crux of this entire segment. Neymar was out for six weeks with a significant hamstring injury. The match against Lille was his first competitive appearance since mid-October. When he was subbed off, he did not “storm off” at all. He walked down the tunnel to likely receive treatment as PSG want to make sure he’s available to play on Tuesday against Real Madrid. Sitting on the bench for 30 minutes probably isn’t going to do great things for his recovering hamstring. That logic doesn’t fit their narrative though.
After the match, Thiago Silva commented on the status of Neymar to Le Parisien:
“He is not yet 100 percent,” Silva said. “He countered well, but still lacks something, technical quality, but especially the physical. Little by little, he will come back.”
As reported by Culture PSG, Tuchel said after the match that “it’s normal” and that “a lot of players go directly to the locker room, some players stay on the bench.”
According to Merriam-Webster, “storming” means “to express one’s anger usually violently.” Watch the video below. Would you say Neymar is expressing anger and acted violently while walking towards the tunnel? He winks at Mbappé and hugs him then he greets a member of PSG’s staff before slowly walking down the tunnel. What are we even talking about here?
The panel then transitions to Neymar “not caring” about PSG because he traveled to Spain to take in a tennis tournament earlier this week. Sure, that probably wasn’t a great idea but Neymar is 27-years-old and one of the best footballers in the world. Special talents get special privileges and we all need to accept that and get over it. I wouldn’t equate that he doesn’t care about PSG.
Moreno, usually the voice of reason when it comes to Neymar on the show, did mention the flashes of brilliance Neymar displayed against Lille including his fantastic back-heel pass. He also asked that Neymar act more professionally and not travel while recovering from an injury. I think that’s a fair point.
Burley is never at a loss for words and claims that he is uninterested in how Neymar plays in France because he claims it’s too easy. He clearly hasn’t watch Ligue 1 in quite some time. It’s an incredibly physical league, as Thilo Kehrer talked about recently, and Neymar gets very little protection from officials. It’s also a league with young, talented players on every team and next summer, I guarantee you that Premier League clubs will spend a lot of money on those players to bring them to England.
I get that Neymar headlines get clicks and video views but completely making up a story about how he was angry about be substituted off and using that as a base to criticize him should be beyond an institution like ESPN. Be better.
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