It’s a dilemma that most football coaches would love to have – when it comes to your team taking a penalty, who do you choose to take it, Neymar or Edinson Cavani (oh and if for some reason neither are up for it you’ve got Kylian Mbappe in reserve) ? Unfortunately it’s a dilemma that’s causing some friction among the Paris Saint-Germain playing squad.
Admittedly it’s a minor quibble when compared to the forthcoming UEFA enquiry into Neymar’s record-shattering move from Barcelona and whether it breached FFP rules (and you can read more about both Neymar’s transfer and FFP itself in this in-depth analysis by AskFans), but disharmony between Cavani and Neymar is stretching to all set pieces too.
Cavani has been the penalty taker at PSG since 2013, but Neymar is a regular penalty-taker for Brazil. Things came to a head at the weekend in PSG’s game against Lyon when PSG were awarded a penalty in the 79th minute and Cavani and Neymar engaged in a heated discussion as to whom should take the spot-kick. The Uruguayan Cavani won the argument, but saw his effort pushed onto the bar by Lyon keeper Anthony Lopes and subsequently cleared.
The penalty was not the only debated issue in the game. At one stage PSG were awarded a free kick which Cavani wanted to take, but Neymar’s Brazilian team-mate Dani Alves refused to give the Uruguayan the ball, passing it to Neymar instead.
PSG boss Unai Emery did not seem to help matters when he said after the game he wanted his two superstars to share penalty duties. “It takes a gentleman’s agreement on the ground to hit the penalties,” said the PSG manager. “Afterwards, we will arrange internally for the penalties that are coming in, because I think both are able to score them, and I want the two to alternate in this exercise.”
Fortunately Cavani’s penalty miss had no effect on the final score, as PSG won 2-0, but it was easily PSG’s worst display of the season so far, with Neymar particularly ineffective. There was a great deal of good fortune about both of PSG’s goals. The first, after seventy-five minutes of Lyon giving as good as they got saw the ball deflect off Marcelo from Cavani’s flick and past Lopes. The second, ten minutes later and after Cavani’s penalty mishap, saw Mbappe run clear from Neymar’s precise pass. The youngster though fired his shot straight at Lopes but the ball cannoned off the keeper’s chest and rebounded off covering defender Jeremy Morel and into the net.
While PSG’s performance was distinctly below par, they cannot quibble (unlike Neymar and Cavani) over the result which made it six wins out of six in Ligue 1 for the Parisian giants. Manager Emery though needs to quickly address any disharmony that potential frictions between two of his superstars may cause, particularly with PSG’s first real stern test – a UEFA Champions League tie against German behemoths Bayern Munich – coming up.