When Paris Saint-Germain began their very public flirting with Brazilian star Neymar, the football world remained in denial. Surely he would never move to France, and give up his hopes and dreams at Barcelona? Just as soon as Lionel Messi departed to take his place among the footballing gods, maybe Neymar might finally challenge for the Balon d’or, and have a serious shout at winning it this time? But Neymar simply didn’t have enough patience, and he was unveiled as Paris’ newest signing amid promotion pictures of the Eiffel Tower and the customary colours of the French flag soon after.
His transfer shattered the world record for highest fee, and left a bitter taste in Barcelona, and perhaps many other footballing nations. It was a move that many thought would never be possible – after all, Financial Fair Play would surely put an end to it? Perhaps UEFA could step in and put Neymar back in his place? But, of course, neither of these happened and now Neymar is enjoying a good start to life in Ligue 1.
However, in this weekend’s round of fixtures, he was comprehensively thrust into the shadows by PSG’s Edinson Cavani. The Parisians extended their lead to six points over rivals Monaco, after a comfortable 4-1 home victory over Claudio Ranieri’s Nantes. The Uruguayan’s first finish came after good work from Javier Pastore who laid off to Cavani, and the striker rifled home. The league leaders wrapped up a good afternoon’s work after Cavani found the back of the net following a scramble inside the penalty area, after Nantes failed to clear.
Monaco struggled to break down a dogged Amiens defence, and lost touch with Unai Emery’s leaders following the 1-1 draw. It was the underdogs who took the lead on the half hour mark, following a quick counter-attack. Former Chelsea player Gael Kakuta looks to have found his footing in French football, and he threaded through Serge Gakpe who found the back of the net. Amiens are struggling to break out of a relegation scrap this season, and they performed admirably until the hour, when Stevan Jovetic tucked home for the equaliser.
Leonardo Jardim’s team are chasing a title win this season, however unlikely that seems with PSG’s dominance in France set to continue for the foreseeable future. But with the losses of Kylian Mbappe and Tiemoue Bakayoko, Monaco’s summer transfer business was shrewd and looks to have paid off. However, the draw with Amiens means that they are further losing grip on the reigning champions once again.
Elsewhere in France, Marcelo Bielsa, much slated so far for his tenure at Lille so far, led his team to a 3-1 victory over St Etienne. Lille opened the scoring when Anwar El Ghazi delivered a sublime ball in for Nicolas Pepe to head home. After a scare from the away side, Bielsa steered his men to a crucial three points, meaning that Lille have now picked up a win either side of the international break.
Third-place Lyon could only draw against Montpellier, in a home draw that ended 0-0. Lyon’s usual attacking force has proven to be more than a match for any team this season, but eighth-place Montpellier’s defence held out. The best chance in the game fell to Houssem Aouar, who did well to dispossess Hilton inside the penalty area. The Lyon midfielder could only rifle an effort into the side netting though from a tight angle, before Montpellier’s Paul Lasne smashed an effort narrowly over the bar.
The draw means that Lyon’s impressive start to the season continues, even though any form of title challenge still seems unlikely. Their free-flowing, attacking football has caught the eye of many football pundits and supporters, but this weekend’s slip-up means the team will have to work harder than ever to keep pace with Monaco and PSG.
OGC Nice, without Mario Balotelli after his suspension, conceded a stoppage time equaliser away at Caen. Nice opened the scoring five minutes before half time, following a patient passing move. Alsanne Plea flicked on an aerial ball to Pierre Lees-Melou, who took a touch and fired home past Vercoutre, who gambled on the wrong direction. After Caen missed a spot-kick, they eventually got their reward in added time, when Ronny Rodelin volleyed home at the back post.
This weekend’s fixtures look all set to provide plenty of entertainment. St Etienne play Strasbourg in the Friday fixture, while the best game on Saturday has Montpellier taking on Lille. Sunday promises to perhaps go some way in deciding the league winners, with Nice taking on Lyon and second-place Monaco hosting league leaders Paris Saint-Germain.