The end of an exhausting year is finally on the horizon. France’s best footballers have just a couple more days of work before they are able to sign off on a two-week break for the Christmas holidays, though they have been pushed hard in recent times.
Fixtures have flown in thick and fast for the best teams in the country, with European, Coupe de la Ligue and Ligue 1 commitments meaning that they have all had packed schedules in the final weeks of the year.
For a period, it seemed that even mighty Paris Saint-Germain were flagging. Defeats against Bayern Munich and Strasbourg had Unai Emery’s side rocking but they have responded on the field, with Neymar leading their charge at the weekend as they defeated Rennes 4-1.
The Brazilian had been back in his homeland to deal with family matters in the early part of the week but came back at his very best level, torturing the Breton defence and scoring twice, with an assist to boot.
Returning back to France was clearly a bit of a shock to the player’s system after the balmy time he spent in Brazil, where it is nearly the height of summer.
Dani Alves was clearly pleased with the outcome of the match and the performance of his colleagues, apparently pinpointing Neymar as he posted a photo of himself and his compatriot to his Instagram followers.
“Yes, yes, we’ve got a lot of work to do to reach our goals, be we are going to enjoy it for the duration of the journey and I have no doubts,” he said.
Having moved to PSG from Juventus in the summer on a free transfer, the defender seems to be enjoying life in the capital, with things going well for him both on and off the field.
Earlier this week, he took time out to visit Paris’ – and the world’s most popular – tourist destination, the Eiffel Tower, getting a picture taken of himself with his partner in the processs.
“My love, I love you, with you until the end of the world,” he said.
Back on the park, meanwhile, Kylian Mbappe had reason to celebrate has he was named as the winner of the Telefoot Trophy, which is given to the most promising young French talent. He beat Manchester United’s Anthony Martial into second place, with Marseille’s Maxime Lopez finishing third.
Meanwhile, Mario Balotelli put his French to the test as he invited fans to watch Nice’s Sunday match with Bordeaux in a festive spirit.
“I want you to come on Sunday for the match against Bordeaux, to celebrate Christmas together,” he said. “Sorry, I don’t speak very well, but I hope to see you there in numbers. This is Nice!”
A year ago, the Italian had Lucien Favre’s men top of Ligue 1 and was seen leaving the field with a Santa had on his head. This time around, he got the winning goal, but Nice will head into the winter break just short of the chasing pack.
PSG, of course, lead the way.