Neymar’s charm offensive in Paris continued at pace on Sunday evening as he helped PSG top Ligue 1 at the end of a complete matchday for the first time in 15 months. Already his €222 million transfer fee from Barcelona is looking like money well spent.
Last season’s runners-up have won all three of their opening matches in Le Championnat this season and if they are to reclaim their crown from Monaco, it is already abundantly clear that the world’s most expensive footballer will be the protagonist.
Toulouse offered their first big challenge of the season, as the visitors scored the opening goal through a fine Max Gradel volley but ultimately succumbed to the Brazilian and his colleagues, who looked every bit potential Champions League winners by the end of their 6-2 success.
On his home debut, Neymar netted a crucial equaliser, converting the rebound to an Adrien Rabiot shot that was smartly saved by Alban Lafont. To mark the moment, the former Barcelona man celebrated in the style of Blaise Matuidi, a fine nod to the midfielder who was sold to Juventus earlier this week having made himself something of a cult hero in Paris.
Matuidi was ultimately forced out to make way for Rabiot, who distinguished himself on the left of PSG’s middle three and was the home side’s greatest influence in the first half other than Neymar. As if to emphasise the point, he drilled them into the lead from range as the crowd was still singing the striker’s name in jubilation at the opening goal. Neymar, of course, had given him the ball.
There is, however, yet room for refinement in the Parisians’ play. For all their control, they initially toiled to kill the game off, failing to show the incision that they had in the opening 45 minutes, when it seemed that Lafont’s goal was a shooting gallery.
Marco Verratti’s foolish red card for a second yellow may have left them a man down, but it provided the impetus that they needed to finally click back into top gear. Indeed, the sheer quality of Neymar made pure numbers redundant.
Inevitably, he was to the fore as PSG exploded late on, winning the penalty from which Edinson Cavani got the third, although he was absent from contributing to Javier Pastore’s spectacular long-range third.
Of course, the 25-year-old had something of the final say, showing terrific awareness to take a quick corner before Toulouse were set, although the forward’s quick thinking was more than matched by Kurzawa’s stunning scissor kick.
But with Toulouse rocking there was to be much more.
With a goal and three assists of sorts already to his credit, in the penultimate minute he offered an outrageous rainbow flick over Corentin Jean, sparking a frustrated reaction from the substitute.
This sense of helplessness would only have grown in stoppage time, when the forward showed first determination then dazzling footwork in the box to fire a sixth and complete a humiliation for the guests, who crumbled pitifully late on.
It was a perfect introduction to the Parc des Princes for Neymar, who replicated the fireworks on the field that had been evident away from it when he was first paraded as a PSG addition a fortnight ago.
At this rate, €222m could prove a bargain.