Neymar left out of PSG opener, exit talks 'more advanced'

Alexis HONTANG
AFP

Saint-Germain-en-Laye (France) (AFP) - Paris Saint-Germain revealed on Saturday that Neymar transfer talks are "more advanced than before" after the Brazilian was dropped for the French champions' opening Ligue 1 match.

Sporting director Leonardo confirmed to reporters that the Brazilian was near the exit door but that PSG were "not yet ready to give their approval (to the transfer)" ahead of Sunday's game against Nimes at the Parc des Princes.

PSG coach Thomas Tuchel said: "Neymar did not complete training and it's not possible that he plays tomorrow."

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The club are impatient for the transfer saga to reach a conclusion, one way or another.

"It's important to shape our future for everyone," Neymar's fellow Brazilian Leonardo told a press conference.

"If he stays, he plays. If he leaves, he leaves. The quicker (we know) the better."

Real Madrid or a return to Barcelona are the most likely destinations for the world's most expensive footballer, with Spanish media on Friday saying that Zinedine Zidane's side will battle Barca for the 27-year-old's signature.

Sports newspaper AS claimed Neymar has been offered to Madrid by PSG, who are open to selling if they can either recoup the 222 million euros ($249 million) they spent on him in 2017 or receive half that amount with players included in the deal.

Barcelona-based Mundo Deportivo says that he would prefer a move back to Catalonia to play alongside former teammates Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.

Neymar started the new season by angering the Qatari-backed club when he turned up one week late for training.

The player's camp maintained he had a prior agreement to stay away but that didn't wash with his employers who threatened to take "appropriate action".

Off the pitch, Neymar was informed by a Brazilian judge on Friday that the rape case which has been hanging over the footballer for months had been dismissed due to insufficient evidence.

Neymar had vehemently denied allegations he raped a Brazilian woman in a Paris hotel in May.

- Courting controversy -

The forward, whose time in France has been marked by injuries and controversies, has made a series of remarks that strained his relationship further with the club and sparked outrage on social media.

Asked by an online sports channel about his best memory in football, he cited Barcelona's incredible 2017 Champions League last-16 comeback against PSG when he inspired the Catalans to a 6-1 second-leg victory after a 4-0 first-leg defeat.

Neymar was signed by PSG to bolster their hopes of a maiden Champions League title, but they have instead since lost twice in the last-16 phase -- to Real Madrid and Manchester United.

He missed PSG's last games in both Champions League campaigns through injury and twice courted controversy last season.

Neymar insulted VAR officials on Instagram after the team's humbling by United and received a three-match ban from UEFA, and then appeared to punch a Rennes fan after PSG's shock French Cup final defeat.

In total, he has scored 51 goals in 58 games for the capital side, winning two Ligue 1 titles and the 2018 French Cup and French League Cup.

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