Thursday, August 11, 2022

PSG, Neymar making the best of it as Japan tour begins and Pep Guardiola denies Manchester City interest

Paris Saint-Germain edged Kawasaki Frontale 2-1 at Japan National Stadium to get the French champions’ preseason tour off to a positive start. Lionel Messi and Arnaud Kalimuendo scored in either half in the Japanese capital with Kazuya Yamamura notching a late consolation effort for the domestic titleholders.

It was the second time Christophe Galtier has overseen his new team in action after last week’s 2-0 win over Quevilly Rouen Metropole but the first with many of his more experienced squad members. The Frenchman sent his troops out in a 3-4-1-2 formation to start with which is expected to be Les Parisiens’ setup of choice under their new boss — at least to begin with.

Wednesday’s clash was the first chance for Galtier to see Neymar in action given that the Brazilian superstar was not risked against QRM due to a hip complaint. The 30-year-old played the first half before being substituted and should feature again this weekend against Urawa Red Diamonds in the second of three friendly games.

PSG have been open to moving Neymar on since Luis Campos’ arrival as sporting advisor, but Galtier has been sure to keep the door open for the ex-Barcelona star since his arrival at Parc des Princes from OGC Nice. The No. 10 is keen to stay despite knowing the club’s stance on his future and considerable time left on his current deal.

“I am so sorry for Le Parisien, but it is not true,” Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said regarding claims that the Premier League outfit had rejected the Brazil international this summer. “I am sorry for them because the information they have received is false. Neymar is an incredible player and by my information, he is a nice guy. Let him express himself at Paris. City buy 150 players every summer, and it is not true. I am sorry for Neymar, of course.”

Not only was it a chance for Galtier to see Neymar up close, but also several senior players who are considered undesirable and available for transfer this summer. A second half XI included the likes of Mauro Icardi and Abdou Diallo who have both been linked with moves while Idrissa Gueye played the full 90 despite also being deemed sellable.

Part of the reason for these players being part of the tour despite the club not really seeing much of a future for them is the fact that Hugo Ekitike was not signed in time to make the trip from Paris with his new teammates. Other targets, like Lille OSC’s Renato Sanches, are taking longer to close on than expected although a final decision is expected soon.

“Renato has two very good possibilities, two very big clubs,” said LOSC president Olivier Letang at a press conference. “If he is still with us, it is because we have not reached an agreement with the clubs concerned. Renato is going to leave, but to which club? I do not know. I will keep the nature of these discussions confidential. It will be Paris or Milan.”

Next on Campos and Galtier’s hitlist is RB Leipzig’s Nordi Mukiele with talks already underway with the German outfit who have signed Christopher Nkunku and Jean-Kevin Augustin from PSG in recent years. The 24-year-old France international is versatile and could back up Messi’s assist provider Achraf Hakimi on the right as well as slotting into the back three and Galtier did not disguise interest in that position when quizzed.

“We are looking for a versatile wing-back,” he said after the final whistle. “As a second option in that role, we have Eric Junior Dina Ebimbe — not a position specialist. I cannot comment on what is going on internally. There are active leads, and we believe that a player will be joining us in a matter of days.”

There have also been new opportunities for players to boost their stock early on under Galtier with Kalimuendo looking to build on fruitful time on loan with RC Lens while Ekitike is unable to stake his claims to game time. The youth academy product had been linked with the likes of Leeds United this summer but could end up earning himself an extended stay in the French capital.

You can stream PSG’s remaining Japan friendlies on CBS Sports Network with Urawa Reds on Saturday and Gamba Osaka next Monday before the squad regroups ahead of the Trophee des Champions clash with FC Nantes.

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