Neymar dedicated his second goal at Lille to basketball legend Kobe Bryant, whose death on Sunday in a helicopter crash shocked the world.
The Brazilian slotted home the 52nd-minute penalty that put PSG two goals up in the French Ligue 1 clash and went over to the television cameras by the side of the Stade Pierre Mauro pitch to make the number 24 with his fingers in honour of Bryant’s shirt number.
Bryant, who had been nominated for the NBA Hall of Fame in December, was confirmed dead at 41 years old on Sunday after a helicopter crashed and burst into flames in foggy conditions in suburban Los Angeles, leaving five people dead.
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s officials said there were no survivors from the morning crash on a rugged hillside in Calabasas, west of LA.
In an email to AFP, Mayor of Calabasas Alicia Weintraub confirmed Bryant was among the victims.
Neymar marked his first start in a Champions League game in a year by scoring one goal and setting up two more as Paris Saint-Germain cruised to a 5-0 win over Galatasaray on Wednesday.
Mauro Icardi and Pablo Sarabia netted in the first half at the Parc des Princes, with the world’s most expensive player getting his team’s third within two minutes of the restart.
Kylian Mbappe scored the fourth goal and substitute Edinson Cavani added a late penalty as PSG — who had already qualified for the last 16 as group winners – made it 16 points out of a possible 18 in Group A to finish five points ahead of Real Madrid.
However, it was Neymar who made the biggest impression, four days after starring in a 3-1 domestic victory at Montpellier and an injury-ravaged year to the day after his last start in Europe, against Red Star Belgrade.
“Neymar was already super important in a very difficult game at Montpellier. He was decisive in that game and he is improving,” said coach Thomas Tuchel.
“He is working hard off the ball, and going forward he is finding his form. It is easier now for him to accelerate, and he was really, really good.”
Despite PSG already being through and France being in the grip of a transport strike that has almost completely shut down the Paris metro system, the Parc des Princes was still largely full.
That included a sizeable travelling support, and there were incidents outside the stadium ahead of the match between rival fan groups, with police responding by firing tear gas before calm returned.
The game itself carried the air of a training exercise for the home side, with Tuchel resting stars such as Angel Di Maria, Thiago Silva, Marco Verratti and goalkeeper Keylor Navas.
There was a start in midfield for the 17-year-old Tanguy Kouassi, who made his senior debut last weekend and has still not signed full professional terms.
A year in the wilderness
The two biggest stars were on the pitch, though, and both Neymar and Mbappe proved too hot for the Turkish champions to handle.
Mbappe lifted the ball over advancing Galatasaray goalkeeper Fernando Muslera, leaving Icardi with an easy finish to make it 1-0 just after the half-hour mark.
It was Icardi’s 12th goal of the season and it was followed three minutes later by Sarabia controlling Neymar’s pass and firing low into the far corner.
After that Red Star game at the end of last season’s group phase, in which Neymar scored in a 4-1 win, he went on to miss both legs of the last-16 defeat against Manchester United due to injury.
He then sat out the first three games of this European campaign because of suspension, and was injured again for the following match, a 1-0 win over Club Brugge.
Neymar returned for the 2-2 draw at Real Madrid a fortnight ago, but only as a substitute.
The Brazilian collected Mbappe’s lay-off and fired low into the net to make it 3-0 in the 47th minute and then returned the favour, releasing the French World Cup winner to score his fifth Champions League goal of the season and make it 4-0 after the hour mark.
All that was left was for Cavani — the real PSG fans’ favourite currently relegated to the role of back-up — to convert a late penalty, making it 5-0 after Mbappe had been brought down, with Neymar happy for the Uruguay striker to take over penalty duties.
“We are in this together as a team and I hope him giving the penalty to ‘Edi’ is a symbol for the team this season,” added Tuchel.
Galatasaray finish with a paltry one goal and two points in the group and miss out on the consolation of a Europa League spot in the new year to Club Brugge.
Neymar will escape prosecution for an altercation with an opposition supporter after Paris Saint-Germain’s surprise defeat in the French Cup final in April, sources told AFP on Monday.
Prosecutors have decided the Brazilian star will receive a written warning and no further action will be taken.
A 29-year-old Rennes fan who had been filming Neymar as he climbed the stairs to collect his loser’s medal at the Stade de France appeared to cajole the disconsolate player after the French league champions were defeated in a penalty shootout.
Neymar stopped, used his hand to lower the phone and then tapped the fan on the chin.
“I shouldn’t have done it but sometimes it’s hard to remain calm,” Neymar said on Instagram at the time.
A lawyer for the fan who filed a complaint against Neymar for violent behaviour said the warning was unacceptable.
“It’s a justification of violence,” said lawyer Philippe Ohayon. “If that had been a fan hitting a player he would have been brought to justice and maybe even received a custodial sentence.”
Neymar was given a three-match ban for the gesture at the time of the incident.
Gerard Pique has said Barcelona’s players offered to alter their own contracts to help the club buy Neymar from Paris Saint-Germain last summer.
Barca attempted to re-sign Neymar, sold to PSG for a world record 222 million euros ($249 million) in 2017, but the two teams were unable to agree a deal.
Key players, including Lionel Messi, were eager for the Brazilian to return and Pique says they tried to help the club’s president, Josep Maria Bartomeu, complete the transfer while satisfying UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules.
“What we proposed to the president was that we could tweak our contracts because we knew there was an issue with Fair Play,” Pique told Cadena Ser on Wednesday night.
“Instead of getting paid what we were owed for that year, we could transfer it to the second, third of fourth year so Ney could come.
“Ultimately we wanted to support the club and if we could help in some way, we had no problem with that.”
Neymar earns 38 million euros a year at PSG and the financial implications of signing the 27-year-old would be huge.
“We told him, ‘you live in a golden prison’,” Pique added. “But in football anything can happen and the door is open.”
Pique also said the postponement of last Saturday’s Clasico between Barcelona and Real Madrid was unnecessary.
The fixture has been rescheduled for December 18 after violent protests broke out last week in Catalonia, following the imprisonment of nine pro-independence leaders.
“My opinion is the postponement was unnecessary,” said Pique. “Common sense says that in Spanish stadiums there has not been any violence. We are civilised people.
“That same weekend the Espanyol-Villarreal game was played and nothing happened. And why isn’t something going to happen on December 18 if it was going to happen before? The situation will be similar.
“It was magnifying a problem that wasn’t a problem in the first place.”
Pique is also the founder of Kosmos, the investment group leading the revamp of tennis’ Davis Cup, which begins in its new format in Madrid on November 18.
The 32-year-old said the plan is for the new one-week competition with 18 teams to expand to two weeks and 24 teams, although Roger Federer has expressed scepticism about the changes.
Asked if he would mind Roger Federer changing football, Pique said: “Not at all.”
Pique added: “We sent him a letter and were surprised by his statements. They see the Davis Cup as competing with the tournament he has.”
While Megan Rapinoe is the leading candidate for the second ever women’s Ballon D’Or, the holder of the men’s award, Luka Modric, and the world’s most expensive player Neymar missed out as France Football unveiled nominees in four categories on Monday.
Modric, fresh from guiding Croatia to a World Cup final, broke the 11-year Cristiano Ronaldo-Lionel Messi, who are both included, stranglehold on the men’s award last year.
Paris Saint-Germain’s Neymar, who cost the French club 222 million euros ($247 million) in 2017, failed to make the 30-man shortlist after a year overshadowed by injury, suspension and controversy for both club and country.
Messi has just collected the FIFA Best award, as did Rapinoe, which split from the Ballon D’Or in 2016.
Rapinoe dominated the Women’s World Cup, on and off the field, in the summer.
She was joint top scorer and was voted player of the tournament as she led the United States to victory in France in July.
The 34-year-old Reign FC playmaker, already a campaigner for LGBT rights and gender equality, made headlines during the tournament by publicly taking on US President Donald Trump.
Last year, Norwegian Ada Hegerberg was the first women’s winner.
The Lyon forward did not play in the World Cup but is among the 20 nominees as are stars who were present at the competition, such as Australia striker Sam Kerr, England’s Lucy Bronze and France captain Amandine Henry.
Virgil Van Dijk, 28, who has had an impressive six months with Liverpool lifting the Champions League, could become a rare defensive winner of the men’s award.
Fabio Cannavaro was the last defender to win in 2006, and only the fourth since the award began in 1956.
Another nominee, Kylian Mbappe, the top goal scorer in Ligue 1 last season, would represent a genuine change of the guard.
The Paris Saint-Germain striker is inelgible to defend his Kopa trophy for the best player under 21 last year as he celebrates his 21st birthday on December 20.
This year also sees the introduction of the Yashin trophy, named after the only goalkeeper to win the Ballon D’Or, Lev Yashin of the Soviet Union, to give that ignored minority a chance to get their hands on a prize of their own.
The award winners will be unveiled on December 2 during a ceremony in Paris after a voting process including journalists from 180 different countries.
On the eve of his 100th international Brazilian appearance, striker Neymar spoke Wednesday about his committment to both his country and his club, Paris-Saint Germain.
Brazil face Senegal on Thursday in a friendly in Singapore and the Brazilian federation presented Neymar with a special shirt on Wednesday with the number 100 on the back instead of his customary 10.
“I’m happy in the national team and with my club too,” said Neymar, who tried to escape Paris and return to Barcelona in the summer.
“Everyone knows what happened during the last transfer window, my initial desires, but today I’m happy and I feel comfortable in my club.”
“The season has started well for me. I’m going to defend my club tooth and nail,” said the 27-year-old who has struggled with foot injuries during his time in Paris. “I will give 100% so that we can do great things.”
The shirt was presented by Bebeto, a striker who played 75 times for Brazil, appearing in two World Cup finals, winning the first in 1994.
“I’m happy to reach this number,” said Neymar. “The results are very positive, even if a footballer’s life is not all about winning. There are also many disappointments, defeats. You make mistakes.”
Neymar has scored 61 goals in 99 games for the Selecao, making him the third highest scorer in the history of his national team. He is one behind Ronaldo but needs 16 to catch Pele.
He won an Olympic gold medal in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 but has experienced many disappointments, particularly at the World Cup.
In 2014, in Brazil, a back injury in the quarter-finals against Colombia prevented him from being on the field during the 7-1 semi-final debacle against Germany.
Brazilian superstar Neymar pledged Saturday to “give my life to PSG” after his goal kept the French giants top of Ligue 1 with a 1-0 win at Bordeaux.
Neymar, the world’s most expensive footballer, had been strongly linked to a return to Barcelona over a tumultuous summer.
However, in an attempt to win over PSG fans, many of whom have become unconvinced by the player’s attachment to the French capital, Neymar has looked a rejuvenated figure, scoring for a third time this season.
“I’m very happy to be able to help PSG, it’s better with the fans,” he said.
“It’s like with your girlfriend, one moment you’re bad, but with hugs and a lot of love, it’s better.
“I am here to give my life to PSG. They are my team, my goal is to help my club, to continue to score goals.”
On Saturday, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar played together for the first time this season and combined for the only goal in Bordeaux.
Mbappe, who had been out injured since August 25, started on the bench but, with PSG struggling for a breakthrough, came on after an hour.
The Parisian attack immediately gained a more menacing edge.
Both Mbappe, with a shot, and Neymar, with a header, went close before combining to open the scoring for the game’s only goal in the 70th minute.
Mbappe outpaced the Bordeaux defence on the right. His precise low cross presented Neymar with a tap in at the far post.
“The most important thing is that these goals are decisive, in tight matches, that’s why I’m here,” added Neymar.
“It’s obviously a pleasure to link up with Kylian again. He came back with his smile and with his football talent,” he added.
– Mbappe’s Neymar ‘admiration’ – French World Cup winner Mbappe said he was delighted to link-up again with Neymar although he admits their partnership remains a work in progress.
“There are things that have been said, but we have always had a relationship based on honesty and admiration,” said Mbappe.
The last time Mbappe and Neymar had appeared together was in the French Cup final last April, a match which ended in defeat.
As Bordeaux pressed, Mbappe and PSG began to carve open the home defence.
He burst through on his own, but goalkeeper Benoit Costil anticipated the chip.
Then Costil again reacted quickly, diving at Angel Di Maria’s feet as the Argentine ran onto Mbappe’s angled through ball.
PSG, who had suffered a shock 2-0 loss to Reims on Wednesday, survived a late video review for a potential Bordeaux penalty to recapture first place.
Angers are second in the table after a 1-1 draw with Amiens.
Nantes, also two points off the pace, had briefly moved to the top when they won 1-0 win at Lyon earlier in the day.
Lyon had the best of the chances but conceded the only goal in freakish fashion just before the hour.
As Samuel Moutoussamy broke into the home area, left-back Fernando Marcal slid in and attempted to poke the ball out for a corner. Instead, it struck his other leg and looped over goalkeeper Anthony Lopes and into the goal.
As the home fans whistled their team, the Lyon players appeared increasingly lost, although the brilliance of Nantes goalkeeper Alban Lafont was a major factor in their failure.
For Nantes, it was a first win at Lyon since December 1996.
Monaco’s revival continued when a 4-1 home win over Brest allowed them to move into 12th spot.
Monaco have now taken seven points from their last three league games.
Lawyers for Brazilian footballer Neymar and Spanish champions Barcelona were meeting on Friday in a last-ditch effort to untangle a contract dispute and avert a multi-million-dollar court battle.
Neymar, the world’s most expensive footballer, quit Barcelona in 2017 and joined Paris Saint-Germain in a stunning coup for the French club.
The move angered the Spanish giants who filed a complaint for breach of contract against the 27-year-old superstar who had pledged loyalty to the Spanish club by signing a new deal just one year earlier.
Neymar arrived in Barcelona Thursday ahead of the court hearing set for 10:00 am (0800 GMT) Friday but was not seen with his lawyers for a pre-hearing reconciliation meeting aimed at resolving the dispute without a court hearing.
“The reconciliation meeting was suspended and will resume at 11:45 am with lawyers from both sides seeking a solution,” a court spokesman said.
The dispute stems from Neymar’s shock transfer to PSG for a world record 222 million euros ($250 million at the time), less than a year after signing a contract that would have kept him at the Spanish club until 2021.
Barcelona filed suit and refused to pay him 26 million euros, which were part of his contract renewal bonus.
After an unsuccessful appeal to world footballing body FIFA, the young Brazilian quickly hit back with a lawsuit over the unpaid bonus.
‘The taxman watching’
Although the full sum of the bonus has never been clear, Neymar received an initial payout and was to have received the rest in instalments over the course of his new contract.
The Spanish club is demanding he return the part of the loyalty bonus already received as well as 8.5 million euros plus interest in compensation for breach of contract.
Neymar promptly filed a countersuit demanding payment of the 26 million euros with interest.
According to El Mundo daily, the case is being closely watched by the Spanish tax authorities who are keen to know whether Neymar, who was a tax resident in 2017, paid his dues on both the bonus and his transfer to PSG.
Back in March, Neymar’s public relations agency, NR Sports, admitted the tax authorities had requested documents but insisted the player was not the subject of a new tax investigation in Spain.
The young striker has been beset by legal problems since his arrival in Europe in 2013 following his move to the Catalan club from Brazil’s Santos.
Barca valued the transfer at 57.1 million euros but Spanish prosecutors believe the amount paid was at least 83.3 million, trigging a string of legal cases in both countries, some of which remain unresolved.
And since transferring to PSG, things have not been any easier.
In the last few months, the superstar who has a huge social media following, found himself facing a rape allegation, which was dropped in August, and an assault charge for hitting a fan after PSG’s shock defeat in April’s French Cup final.
Neymar’s Champions League ban for insulting match officials on social media has been reduced from three games to two following an appeal, the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled on Tuesday.
The world’s most expensive player will miss the fixtures against Real Madrid on Wednesday and Galatasaray in two weeks’ time due to the original ban from UEFA but will now be free to face Belgian side Bruges on October 22.
The Brazilian criticised the referee and his assistants after Paris Saint-Germain’s last-16 collapse against Manchester United in March which he watched from the stands due to injury.