He did not even take to the field to kick a ball in anger, yet Paris Saint-Germain’s opening fixture of the Ligue 1 season contrived to be centred around Neymar. The 2-0 victory over Amiens became a mere sideshow.
The world-record €222 million capture from Barcelona was presented to supporters prior to the game but, aside from a few tricks with the ball, PSG fans will need to wait at least another week before capturing a glimpse of their new hero in action.
Nevertheless, Paris is gripped with Neymar fever that has now spanned the full 48 hours since his arrival was declared from Barcelona. Reports in the local media suggest that PSG sold an astonishing 10,000 Neymar strips in their city centre boutiques, but the greatest manifestation of the enthusiasm for the 25-year-old arrived before Saturday’s Ligue 1 curtain-raiser.
Amid fireworks, the deafening chant of his name and an electric atmosphere that suggests PSG’s fans believe they are embarking on something very special, the 25-year-old Brazil international received a welcome befitting of the world’s most expensive player.
Neymar was forced to watch on from the stand as Unai Emery’s side got off to a winning start against little Amiens, a club who secured promotion to the top flight for the first time with literally the last kick of last season. Their total budget of €25m represents the wage of PSG’s new star for only half the season.
Speaking to the media in the aftermath of an incredible presentation, which had whipped the home crowd into a frenzy, he expressed only one regret.
“I wanted to play but it’ll happen at the right moment,” he told the media.
Nevertheless, the visitors equipped themselves well in a defensive manner before finally succumbing to a goal from Edinson Cavani, who gave notice to his new South American colleague that he will take some dislodging from becoming the club’s top scorer this season.
After missing an early chance, the Uruguayan showed a smart touch and quick feet to create space in the box before bobbling a shot past Regis Gurtner in the visiting net. The goal arrived four minutes before the break, with the hosts under threat of having a really complicated encounter against the minnows.
True to form, Neymar, who had offered some simple but well-executed French as he spoke to the crowd before the game, did not put a foot wrong. With cameras pinned on him, he was seen off his feet and vehemently celebrating as his new team-mate found the net.
Another goal arrived late on from Javier Pastore, who tapped home a Cavani pass, but it was largely academic.
That PSG laboured rather to overcome opponents expected to be relegated at the end of the season might have been cause for alarm on another day, but with only Neymar on the minds of the home support, that will be rapidly forgotten.