EXCLUSIVE: Qatar-owned PSG in frantic bid to keep star man Neymar

Neymar has scored 19 goals in 20 games for PSG since his $262 million move to the French capital last summer.
Updated 18 May 2018
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EXCLUSIVE: Qatar-owned PSG in frantic bid to keep star man Neymar

  • Neymar has had an up and down season at PSG since his world-record move to the Parc Des Princes.
  • Brazilian star publicly and privately encouraged to return to Spanish football by Real Madrid president Florentino Perez.

LONDON: Paris Saint-Germain have made it clear to Neymar that there are absolutely no circumstances under which the Qatar-owned club’s record signing will be allowed to leave for Real Madrid this summer.
If necessary, PSG are prepared to present the Brazil international with the option of playing his football in Paris next season or not playing football at all, sources at the club have told Arab News.
Privately and publicly encouraged by Madrid president Florentino Perez to return to Spanish football just one year after his global record transfer from Barcelona, Neymar and his father have been agitating for the move for months. According to PSG sources, Qatar will not countenance handing over the most high-profile and expensive acquisition of a project designed to secure the club’s first Champions League.
Senior club figures have spent much of Neymar’s first season attempting to placate the Brazil international. In just one example, club president Nasser Al-Khelaifi and sporting director Antero Henrique flew to South America in March to meet Neymar and his father and discuss how the club could keep the pair happy. Talks between the two camps included asking Neymar’s thoughts on who should replace Unai Emery as PSG coach, said a source close to the player.
The meeting followed a debut campaign pockmarked by evidence of Neymar’s discontent in France. There has been on and off-field tension between the forward and leading goalscorer Edinson Cavani, whom the Brazil international wanted to replace as the taker of the side’s penalties and free kicks.
Neymar complained about coach Emery’s tactics, man management and refusal to allow him to skip certain matches. On more than one occasion, the forward unilaterally declared himself unfit to play. As he recovered from surgery on a fractured metatarsal in his home country, the 26-year-old provoked further controversy by posting an image of himself playing online poker while his PSG team-mates secured the Ligue 1 title.
Bought out of his Barcelona contract for €222 million ($262 million) at the beginning of August, Neymar was rewarded with a basic salary worth more than €300 million over the length of a five-year contract — at that point the most lucrative ever agreed. No release clause was included in the Brazilian’s new deal, however, so a second successive summer switch can only happen with Qatari consent.
That, according to PSG sources, will not be forthcoming, with the club’s hierarchy ready to reprise the negotiating tactics with which they kept Marco Verratti in France a year ago. Holding offers from leading Liga and Serie A sides, the Italy midfielder pushed PSG to be allowed to leave only to be told that his options were: “To stay. Or stay and not play. Whichever you’d prefer.”
Verratti stayed and played. PSG are confident that, ultimately, Neymar will make the same choice under Thomas Tuchel, the new coach appointed by the club with the aim of landing a first Champions League. Last week Neymar published an image of himself in his employer’s 2018-19 first-team kit. “Proud to wear the new jersey and to continue giving you joy,” read the caption.


Work still to be done for Egypt's Al-Ahly in quest for African Champions League glory

Updated 23 September 2018
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Work still to be done for Egypt's Al-Ahly in quest for African Champions League glory

  • The Egyptian giants took a step closer to a ninth continental title
  • Attention immediately changed to the first leg against Setif in Cairo on Oct. 2

CAIRO: Al-Ahly coach Patrice Carteron has warned his players against complacency in their forthcoming African Champions League semifinal clash against Setif of Algeria, even though his side swept through with a 4-0 quarterfinal second-leg victory over Guinea’s Horoya in Cairo on Saturday.
The Egyptian giants took a step closer to a ninth continental title with the win against the Guineans after a goalless first leg. From the moment Walid Soliman opened the scoring after 32 minutes at the Al-Salam Stadium, the result was never in doubt as the Reds put in a dominant performance.
Second half goals from Islam Mohareb, Salah Mohsen and Ahmed Fathy confirmed the win.
“It was a good performance, especially as the pitch was poor,” Carteron said. “We are happy to go through but we controlled the game, especially in the second half when we were at our best. We adjusted our offensive strategy at the break and that made a difference.”
Attention immediately changed to the first leg against Setif in Cairo on Oct. 2.
“We know that the game will be very tough as Setif are a strong team but this is the semifinal of the Champions League, you know that any game is going to be tough,” added the Frenchman.
Setif defeated defending champions Wydad Casablanca of Morocco 1-0 on aggregate and will host Al-Ahly in Algeria in the second leg on Oct. 23.
“Setif were the champions in 2014 and we know that we are going to have be at our best if we are going to the final,” said the 48 year-old, who also coached TP Mazembe of Congo to the 2015 title. He is aiming to deliver similar success for Al-Ahly, who last lifted the trophy in 2013.
“When I took the job three months ago, the target was clear: to win the Champions League. That is still the objective and we have taken a big step toward that today.
“Standards in the competition are getting better all the time and results in the quarterfinal show this,” Carteron said, adding that he and his players had taken note of how Mazembe had been knocked out at the last-eight stage.
“Now we are in the semifinal and we have to prepare as well as we can to face Setif. It will be a big challenge but we are looking forward to it.”
Setif reached the semifinal after a 0-0 draw in the second leg in Morocco on Friday to take the tie 1-0 on aggregate following a win on Algerian soil a week earlier.
Goalkeeper Moustapha Zeghba was the star of the show in Casablanca and made a number of fine saves to deny the defending champions.
It was a feather in the cap for coach Rachid Taoussi, a Moroccan who coached Wydad from 2002 to 2003.
“We managed this game very well,” Taoussi said. “We withstood the pressure. It is not easy to keep out such a team, especially with their fans behind them. In the end they had to play long balls and that made it easier for us to defend.”
While Morocco may have lost its sole representative left in the competition, Taoussi is flying the flag for his homeland. “I am proud to be Moroccan. I respect Wydad and the supporters a lot. It’s not easy for anyone to come here and play like we did.
“It is also a demonstration for those who constantly criticize the skills of Moroccan coaches. I’m so happy. That said, the most important thing for us now is to think about going even further in this competition, that is, reaching the final. We have one more step to go; we will give everything until the end.”
The other semifinal sees a third North African team trying to reach the showpiece event as Esperance de Tunis take on Clube Desportivo de Agosto of Angola.