We should enjoy the surface pleasures of Neymar's French adventure, but let's not succumb to habitual hysteria


"La Grande Classe," swooned the front page of L'Équipe. Inside, there was a 9/10 rating – they don't give those out willy-nilly – and dizzy reflection on his performance under the title "Neymar has the knack".

"Two goals, two assists and a penalty won: those are the numbers that sum up his immense impact," wrote Yves Leroy in Le Parisien. "There was an artist's touch as well. An incredible start to life at the Parc des Princes."

If Nasser Al-Khelaifi had been harbouring any lingering doubts as to the prudence of paying £200million for a footballer, they were surely banished at the weekend. After a gala display from their new talisman against Toulouse (a club whose name handily reflected their punchbag destiny), Paris Saint-Germain top the Ligue 1 table and are garnering rave reviews from the local press.

More importantly, they are global news, Neymar's goals and party tricks having instantly been Giffed and Vined straight into football's jugular, absorbed by the great borderless hype machine. In England and in the USA and in Singapore, the opening of PSG's season is being pored over as never before.


The Brazilian media, not usually known for its in-depth analysis of Ligue 1, is the case in point here. Monday's sports pages were dedicated not to domestic goings-on but to the latest exploits of the country's premier stepover-envoy over on the other side of the Atlantic. Fantástico, the frothy staple of the Globo network's Sunday-night offering, now has a whole section – complete with a horse puppet speaking with what the show's producers clearly believe to be a French accent – in which Neymar's every movement is dissected. 

Yes, friend, we are now firmly in the grip of Neymania. It bubbled along nicely enough during Barcelona-apprenticeship years, but now it's a whole new thing. Resistance is futile.

There are two sides to this. The first, most natural reaction is just to submit yourself to the sheer hedonism of it all. Rainbow flicks, nutmegs, goals and assists: leaving aside the prevailing logic of the transfer for a second, isn't this what we want Neymar's French adventure to look like? If you're going to swap the Pyramid Stage for the Palladium, at least put on a show.

That viral video of PSG fans losing their proverbial on Sunday suggested that the public is receptive, and this is surely what Folha de São Paulo columnist Paulo Vinícius Coelho was getting at when he speculated last month that there was a "tourist attraction" aspect to PSG's pursuit of the Brazilian. "He will bring the people who go to the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower to the Parc des Princes," Coelho wrote. Even Toulouse coach Pascal Dupraz seemed to have joined the fanclub on Sunday: "The two matches he has played are mind-boggling. He's good for football."


Good for football, yes, but good for Ligue 1 and good for Neymar? As far as the former goes, the jury is very much still out. Trickle-down economics have rarely held sway in football, so we may legitimately question how increased interest in PSG, courtesy of their human trump card, will benefit the league as a whole. There is plenty to get excited about – the Marcelo Bielsa experiment at Lille, Lyon's exciting young frontline, Monaco's attempts to recalibrate after vulture season – but also a danger that the rest of the division could be reduced to a bit-part role in a never-ending kaleidoscope of Neymar highlights compilations.

You can be sure that we won't lack for material come the end of the season. But the team-as-individual fanaticism also threatens to skew a player's actual achievements. 

Take Neymar's second goal on Sunday, the reaction to which threatened to spill over into hysteria in some quarters. It was certainly an eye-catching strike, requiring impressive balance, neat footwork and no small amount of persistence. But those drooling over it (try searching 'Neymar Puskas' on Twitter) want their eyes checking: it was, in essence, a classy finish at the end of some pinball fortune.


"I don't remember what happened," was Neymar's incisive assessment of the strike, and we won't remember it for long either. It doesn't rank in the top ten Neymar goals. It wasn't even the best moment of his first two matches, which was clearly the laser-guided assist for Edinson Cavani against Guingamp – a reminder that there is so much more to the 25-year-old's game than showy individualism. There was an inevitability about the excitement Sunday's goal generated, but a wrongheadedness, too.

It is of course far too early to be making hard-and-fast judgements about PSG-issue Neymar. With respect to Monaco and the rest, much of the Ligue 1 campaign will mosey past as a deluxe pre-season for the Champions League. Only in the autumn – and next summer, when Neymar will lead Brazil at the World Cup after what will feel like gap year compared to his hardest at Barcelona – will we start to know whether this was a solo project worth ditching the old band for. 

That should not prevent us from enjoying the surface pleasures the Neymar supremacy in the short term. Watch the videos; look the gif horse in the eye. But we should be picky about his moments, acknowledge the possible distorting effect of his presence on the league, and resist the urge to deify him simply for duffing up knackered mortals in the final moments of a match already won.