Neymar Jr. has left Paris Saint-Germain for Saudi Pro League side Al-Hilal, Reelradio.com.ng reports.
The fabled ‘MNM’ strikeforce is no more, with Neymar following Lionel Messi – who joined David Beckham’s Inter Miami last month – in leaving Paris this summer, while Kylian Mbappé has been folded back into the squad.
Still the game’s record transfer after swapping Barcelona for PSG in 2017, Neymar lifted the Parc des Princes faithful off their seats at his breath-taking best, and has left his mark in more ways than one…
1) A transfer that rocked world football
Any look back at Neymar’s stay in the French capital has to start with his arrival. PSG activated the €222 million release clause in his Barcelona contract in the summer of 2017 – a world record transfer fee that remains unsurpassed, and one La Liga even tried to stop happening.
But there was no stopping Neymar’s transfer to PSG. His arrival was a media frenzy with the Brazilian press pack in the French capital increasing tenfold, while Javier Pastore, the first major signing of the QSI era, gave the Brazilian his No.10 shirt as a “welcome gift.”
“I wanted a new challenge,” Neymar said at the time. “This was about ambition. My heart told me that it was time to sign for Paris Saint-Germain. It was the right time to leave Barcelona and find new challenges.
2) A goalscoring debut
Neymar wasted little time in endearing himself to his new fans, scoring one and assisting Edinson Cavani for another on his debut, a 3-0 victory over EA Guingamp at their Stade de Roudourou.
Guingamp’s 19,033-capacity stadium was packed to the rafters, and although the hosts can’t have enjoyed Neymar playing Cavani in for the second with an expertly-weighted through-ball, or his opportunistic finish beyond Karl-Johan Johnsson for the third, they had to admire his talent.
“People think that leaving Barca is to die, but it’s the opposite,” Neymar said after the game. “I’m more alive than ever.”
3) Silencing critics with his best PSG goal
Two years after his arrival, Neymar had two Ligue 1 Uber Eats titles under his belt, as well as a Coupe de France, a Coupe de la Ligue and a Trophée des Champions triumph. But by the end of his second campaign he had missed nearly 60 games with injury.
To make matters worse, the attacker always seemed to be injured or suspended around his younger sister Rafaella Santos’ 11 March birthday, and certain sections of the Rouge et Bleu support began to question his commitment to the cause.
But after returning from a ruptured ankle ligament at the start of his third season, he steered PSG to an injury-time win 1-0 over RC Strasbourg Alsace in his first game back, with an overhead-kick from an Abdou Diallo cross which left Matz Sels with no chance and the home timely reminder of what he was capable of.
4) Neymar’s place in history
By his fourth season in France, Neymar began to rack up the records. With a brace in a 6-1 win over Angers SCO in October 2020, he entered the top 10 of PSG’s all-time top scorers with 72, drawing level with club legend and Brazilian compatriot Rai.
On the way to pulling up for fourth on that list on 118 goals – behind only Mbappé, Cavani and a certain Zlatan Ibrahimovic – Neymar became the quickest of any of them to reach a half-century in Ligue 1 Uber Eats, his penalty for No.50 coming in a 2-2 draw with Girondins de Bordeaux in just his 58th match.
That campaign might have been preceded by a UEFA Champions League triumph in August, but Bayern Munich edged PSG 1-0 in Lisbon despite Neymar’s three attempts on Manuel Neuer’s goal.
5) Signing off in style
Messi followed Neymar to PSG from Barcelona in the summer of 2021, and while the pair had previously formed the fabled ‘MSN’ front three with Luis Suarez at Camp Nou, the ‘MNM’ equivalent with Mbappé in Paris was just as exciting.
All three scored and assisted as PSG thrashed 2021 French champions LOSC 7-1 last August, but Neymar had a hand in five goals that day and was statistically the most prolific – before undergoing surgery on his ankle. His 18 goals and 17 assists in all competitions last term gave him a goal-involvement of one every 75 minutes he played.
While there was some rough to go with Ney’s smooth in his PSG career, he leaves a club legend, and one who should be celebrated.