Neymar is a spoilt child and the Winners & Losers of the Champions League

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The Champions League returned to action this week with a bang and the world's most expensive player should be ashamed by his behaviour...


WINNERS: AL-KHELAIFI & PSG'S PETRO-DOLLARS


Kylian Mbappe Edinson Cavani Neymar PSG Celtic 13092017

Even one unexpected intruder couldn't get close to Kylian Mbappe at Celtic Park on Tuesday night, so the home side's players never had any hope of nullifying the threat posed by the teenage striking sensation and his fellow Paris Saint-Germain forwards Neymar and Edinson Cavani.

This was a first, eagerly-awaited Champions League outing for the visitors' attacking triumvirate - put together by Oryx Qatar Sports Investments at a cost of €466 million - and they did not disappoint their wealthy employers. All three scored, with Cavani netting twice, and Mbappe and Neymar bagging one goal apiece in a devastating 5-0 victory.

The wonderfully talented midfielder Adrien Rabiot admitted afterwards that his job has suddenly become a lot easier thanks to the terrific trio: "They're unbelievable; we just need to give the ball and they know what to do."

Whether Mbappe and Neymar can now help Cavani fire PSG to Champions League glory remains to be seen but one thing is already clear: club president Nasser Al-Khelaifi has no regrets about signing the two most expensive players in history.

"Of course the money we spent on Neymar and Mbappe was worth it," he declared after the exhibition in Glasgow. "It's a long-term invest but it's a dream for me to see my team playing with such style and scoring five goals at the same time."

It seems that sometimes money can buy you happiness.


WINNERS: ENGLISH CLUBS


Harry Kane Tottenham Dortmund

For a league that makes over £5 billion from television rights and is so rich that the bottom team earns more money than the winners of Serie A, the Bundesliga and Ligue 1, it is embarrassing how badly Premier League sides have performed in Europe recently.

In the five years since Chelsea fortuitously won the competition in 2012, only four of the 40 quarter-finalists and two of the 20 semi-finalists have been English. None of these have made it to the final.

It is a statistic that emphatically confirms that the Premier League is nowhere near being the ‘best league in the world’ that Richard Scudamore’s marketing machine claims it to be.

However, there are early signs this season that the EPL can start to make its mark on the Champions League again. In matchday one, only an undeserved Sevilla equaliser at Liverpool prevented all five Premier League sides winning.

Spurs earned an impressive 3-1 win over a talented Dortmund side, while Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United put six, four and three goals past Qarabag, Feyenoord and Basel, respectively.

It is still early days and the group stages are traditionally a procession, but the Premier League should be confident of at least one or two of their teams reaching the latter knockout rounds this season.


LOSERS: JUVENTUS


Lionel Messi Gianluigi Buffon Barcelona Juventus UCL 09122017

On the evidence of Barcelona’s Lionel Messi-inspired 3-0 win at Camp Nou on Tuesday night, this season’s Juventus is weaker than the one that reached the Champions League final in June.

The Bianconeri shipped just three goals in 12 games on the road to Cardiff thanks to their brilliant defence. But after losing half of their first-choice back four this summer - Leonardo Bonucci to AC Milan and Dani Alves to Paris Saint-Germain – they have already conceded three times in the opening 90 minutes of this year’s competition.

Instead of signing a replacement for Bonucci, CEO Beppe Marotta and coach Max Allegri opted to let Medhi Benatia and Daniele Rugani fight it out for a regular starting berth. Benatia is clearly not of Bonucci’s standard, while there are still question marks over whether Rugani can reach the level required. Meanwhile, Giorgio Chiellini is now 33 and increasingly injury-prone, yet still three years younger than Andrea Barzagli.

Juventus also now look vulnerable at right-back, with Stephan Lichtsteiner not even good enough to earn inclusion in Allegri's Champions League squad, and new-boy Mattia De Sciglio’s form and confidence at rock bottom.

The decision not to buy a top-class defender this summer looks like a colossal mistake. The foundation of Juve’s team, on which all their success since 2011 has been built, is suddenly very fragile (they also conceded three times in the Italian Supercup versus Lazio).

Although Juve’s attacking options are improved this season – especially thanks to the explosive Douglas Costa – Europe’s top teams will no longer fear the club’s defence. As a result, fans will be hoping that utility defender Benedikt Howedes – signed from Schalke and still not match-fit - can help plug the gaping holes at the back.

If not, there is no chance of the Old Lady making a third final appearance in four seasons.


LOSERS: NEYMAR & FOOTBALL'S SPOILT CHILDREN


Neymar Ralston PSG Celtic

Brendan Rodgers claimed after Celtic's hiding at the hands of PSG that his players had played like Under-12s during the first half but, in truth, hapless as the home side's defence may have been, there had only been one child on the pitch - Neymar.

The Brazilian is not a popular player among Bhoys fans anyway, after subjecting them to numerous exhibitions in the art of simulation during his days at Barcelona, but he achieved a new low by refusing to shake the hand of Celtic's Anthony Ralston at full-time - let alone accept the 18-year-old's request to swap shirts.

Neymar was upset that the right-back had laughed in his face at one point during the game, which is certainly poor form, but then again, the Selecao star's histrionics, which saw him booked for diving at Celtic Park, are often as comical as they are shameful. 

As another Celtic defender, Mikael Lustig, pointed out afterwards, Neymar is a ridiculously talented footballer, so he doesn't need to stoop to such levels in order to entertain. "I have said before that it’s part of his game," he mused. "But we will see it again and again. If he wants to be liked as much as Messi, maybe he needs to stop that."

However, Neymar's petulant reaction at full-time suggests he sees nothing wrong with what he is doing. Furthermore, he was not the only high-profile footballer reacting like a spoilt child on matchday one.

Juventus striker Gonzalo Higuain gave Barca fans the finger after being substituted at Camp Nou, while Bayern Munich winger Franck Ribery threw his jersey at the bench after he had been withdrawn by Carlo Ancelotti during the Bavarians' laboured win over 10-man Anderlecht.

Such petty behaviour would look out of place even at an under-12s game. At the highest level, it's pathetic.


LOSERS: FANS OF COMPETITION


HD John Stones Manchester City

Both Feyenoord and Celtic have long and illustrious associations with the European Cup. They even met in the final in 1970.

It is, thus, deeply depressing to see two former winners humiliated on matchday one by the two most expensively assembled sides in history, PSG and Manchester City, neither of whom have ever won the most prestigious trophy in club football.

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Both clubs are now challenging the old order thanks to their wealthy owners from the Middle East - and good luck to them. That is not really the issue here. The issue is that teams such as Feyenoord and Celtic can no longer compete at the highest level - and that's without even getting into the likes of Anderlecht or Basel.

In truth, every side operating outside Europe's 'Big Five' leagues have been rendered an irrelevance in the Champions League by the seemingly bottomless wells of financial resources funding unprecedented spending sprees at PSG, City and the few other members of the continent's elite.

There is more money in football than ever before but, just like society in general, the wealth belongs solely to a select few clubs and the Champions League is all the poorer for it.

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