Neymar Trial Wraps Up In Spain After Prosecutors Drop Charges

Paris Saint-Germain's Brazilian forward Neymar looks on during the UEFA Champions League group H football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Istanbul Basaksehir FK at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris, on December 9, 2020. FRANCK FIFE / AFP
File photo of Paris Saint-Germain’s Brazilian forward Neymar.            FRANCK FIFE / AFP

 

Brazilian superstar, Neymar’s trial in Spain over his transfer to Barcelona in 2013 is expected to wrap up Monday after Spanish prosecutors last week dropped their fraud charges against the player.

The 30-year-old and the eight other defendants — including his parents who manage his affairs and two former Barca presidents — will be allowed to make closing arguments to the Barcelona court.

Neymar, who now plays for Paris Saint-Germain who on Wednesday face Juventus in the Champions League, and his parents have been granted permission by the court to testify via videoconference.

Spanish prosecutors had been seeking a two-year prison term and a fine of 10 million euros ($9.9 million) for Neymar, a key member of the Brazil team that will be heading to the World Cup in Qatar in November.

But in a surprise move, the state prosecutor withdrew all criminal charges against Neymar and the rest of the accused, arguing there was not enough evidence presented in court that a crime had been committed.

The trial is continuing however because Brazilian investment company DIS, which jointly brought the case, has maintained its accusation that the parties committed fraud and corruption.

The case centres on Neymar’s high-profile transfer from Santos, the Brazilian club where he rose to global prominence, to Barcelona nearly a decade ago.

DIS, owned by the founders of a supermarket chain, had a 40 percent stake in Neymar’s sporting rights at the time of his move to Europe.

In a 2015 complaint filed by DIS in Spain, the firm claims that Neymar, Barcelona and the Brazilian club colluded to mask the true cost of his transfer thereby defrauding it of its legitimate financial interests.

Barca said the transfer was valued at 57.1 million euros, with 40 million euros paid to a company called N&N which manages Neymar’s affairs and 17.1 million to Santos, of which 6.8 million was given to DIS.

Spanish prosecutors have said they believe the actual value was at least 83 million euros.

DIS is seeking to recover 35 million euros.

Neymar told the court on the second day of his trial on October 18 that he did not remember if he took part in the negotiations over his transfer to Barca, and that he only signed documents presented to him by his father.

“My father has always been in charge,” he said in court. “I sign what he tells me to.”

All of the other defendants, including former Barca presidents Josep Maria Bartomeu and Sandro Rosell, also deny any wrongdoing.

State prosecutor Luis Garcia suggested that the proper forum for the claims made by DIS was a civil court, which deals with disputes between people or organisations.

“DIS has the right to feel that Neymar’s transfer should have given greater profit, but I think it has picked the wrong jurisdiction,” he told the court on Friday when he announced he was dropping charges.

The court is expected to give its ruling in several weeks.

AFP

Neymar Expected To Testify At Corruption Trial In Barcelona

FILES) In this file photo taken on May 4, 2019 Paris Saint-Germain’s Brazilian forward Neymar looks on during the French L1 football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and OGC Nice at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris. Neymar failed to show up for pre-season training with Paris Saint-Germain on July 8, 2019 with the club announcing they would take “appropriate action”. Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi has warned Neymar and his other highly-paid stars that they must shape-up or ship out, claiming “celebrity behaviour” at the French champions will not be tolerated.
Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP

 

Just a month before the start of the World Cup, Brazilian superstar Neymar was expected to testify in a Spanish court Tuesday at his trial over alleged irregularities in his transfer to Barcelona nearly a decade ago.

Neymar had been set to testify on either October 21 or 28 but the judge agreed to bring forward his hearing to avoid a clash with his football commitments.

Wearing sunglasses and a dark suit, the 30-year-old arrived at the Provincial Court of Barcelona for the start of the trial Monday with his parents who are also in the dock.

Neymar spent two hours at the court before he was excused by the judge for the rest of the day’s hearing after his lawyers argued he needed to rest after playing Sunday night.

The player scored the only goal of the Ligue 1 match against Marseille.

“Da Silva Santos Junior scored a goal when I was already in bed,” admitted court president Jose Manuel del Amo.

The high-profile trial is the culmination of a years-long legal saga over Neymar’s 2013 transfer from the Brazilian club Santos to Barcelona.

He then joined Qatar-owned Paris Saint-Germain in a world record 222 million euro transfer in 2017.

Spanish prosecutors are seeking a two-year prison term for Neymar and the payment of a 10-million-euro ($9.7 million) fine.

He is one of nine defendants on trial on corruption-related charges, among them his parents and their N&N company, which manages his affairs.

-‘Complicity to defraud’ –
Investigators began probing the transfer after a 2015 complaint filed by DIS, a Brazilian company that owned 40 percent of the player’s sporting rights when he was at Santos.

Barcelona said the transfer cost 57.1 million euros, but prosecutors believe it was at least 83 million euros.

The club said it paid 40 million euros to N&N and 17.1 million to Santos, of which 6.8 million was given to DIS.

But DIS alleges that Neymar, Barcelona and the Brazilian club colluded to mask the true cost of the deal.

Among the other defendants are two former Barca presidents, Sandro Rosell and Josep Maria Bartomeu, and ex-Santos boss Odilio Rodrigues Filho.

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez is also set to take the stand on Tuesday by videoconference to give his opinion of how a 2011 secret pre-contract deal between Barca and Neymar influenced the market.

“Neymar Junior, with the complicity of his parents and FC Barcelona and its directors at the time, and Santos FC at a later stage, defrauded DIS of its legitimate financial interests,” said DIS lawyer Paulo Nasser on Thursday.

DIS is seeking to recover 35 million euros.

Neymar’s lawyers insist their client is innocent, saying the 40 million euros was a “legal signing bonus which is normal in the football transfer market”.

They have said Spanish authorities lack jurisdiction to hear the case since the transfer involved Brazilian nationals in Brazil.

The trial is due to end on October 31.

Neymar’s abrupt departure for PSG five years ago sparked a string of legal disputes, with Barcelona withholding its contract extension bonus and suing the player for breach of contract, as Neymar countersued.

Both sides eventually reached an “amicable” out-of-court settlement in 2021.

The footballer is having one of his best seasons since he joined PSG.

His goal against Marseille on Sunday was his ninth league goal of the season, and he has seven assists in 11 Ligue 1 matches.

But his relations with France international superstar Kylian Mbappe appear to be strained, with the 23-year-old reportedly demanding PSG sell the Brazilian.

Neymar is expected to play a key role for Brazil at the World Cup in Qatar, as the South American giants seek to win the trophy for the first time since 2002, and the sixth in total.

He will lead the Selecao into their Group G opener against Serbia on November 24.

AFP

Neymar Trial Opens In Barcelona Ahead Of World Cup

Paris Saint-Germain’s Brazilian forward Neymar gestures as he leaves after attending the opening audience at the courthouse in Barcelona on October 17, 2022, on the first day of his trial.

 

With the World Cup barely a month away, Brazilian superstar Neymar goes on trial in Spain Monday over alleged irregularities in his transfer to Barcelona nearly a decade ago.

The 30-year-old, wearing sunglasses and a dark suit, waved to the press as he arrived with his parents at the Provincial Court of Barcelona at around 9:45 am.

The high-profile trial is the culmination of a years-long legal saga over his 2013 transfer from the Brazilian club Santos to Barcelona.

Neymar then joined Qatar-owned Paris Saint-Germain in a world record 222 million euro ($214 million) transfer in 2017.

He is one of nine defendants on trial on corruption-related charges, among them his parents and their N&N company, which manages his affairs.

All three are facing charges of business corruption.

Investigators began probing the transfer after a 2015 complaint filed by DIS, a Brazilian company that owned 40 percent of the player’s sporting rights when he was at Santos.

Barcelona said the transfer cost 57.1 million euros, but prosecutors believe it was at least 83 million euros.

The club said it paid 40 million euros to N&N and 17.1 million to Santos, of which 6.8 million was given to DIS.

But DIS alleges that Neymar, Barcelona and the Brazilian club colluded to mask the true cost of the deal.

Among the other defendants are two former Barca presidents, Sandro Rosell and Josep Maria Bartomeu, and ex-Santos boss Odilio Rodrigues Filho.

‘Complicity to defraud’

Neymar, who came to Barcelona just hours scoring the winning goal against Marseille in a Ligue 1 match on Sunday, will testify on either October 21 or October 28, but it is not known if he will have to be physically present. The trial is due to end on October 31.

If convicted, he could face two years in jail and a 10-million-euro ($9.7 million) fine.

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez will take the stand on Tuesday by videoconference to give his opinion of how a 2011 secret pre-contract deal between Barca and Neymar influenced the market.

“Neymar Junior, with the complicity of his parents and FC Barcelona and its directors at the time, and Santos FC at a later stage, defrauded DIS of its legitimate financial interests,” said DIS lawyer Paulo Nasser on Thursday.

DIS is seeking to recover 35 million euros.

Set for World Cup

Neymar’s lawyers insist their client is innocent, saying the 40 million euros was a “legal signing bonus which is normal in the football transfer market”.

They have said Spanish authorities lack jurisdiction to hear the case since the transfer involved Brazilian nationals in Brazil.

Neymar’s abrupt departure for PSG five years ago sparked a string of legal disputes, with Barcelona withholding its contract extension bonus and suing the player for breach of contract, as Neymar countersued.

Both sides eventually reached an ‘amicable’ out-of-court settlement in 2021.

The footballer is having one of his best seasons since he joined PSG.

His goal against Marseille was his ninth league goal of the season and he has seven assists in 11 Ligue 1 matches.

But his relations with France international superstar Kylian Mbappe appear to be strained, with the 23-year-old reportedly demanding PSG sell the Brazilian.

Neymar is also expected to play a key role for Brazil at the World Cup in Qatar, as the South American giants seek to win the trophy for the first time since 2002, and the sixth in total.

He will lead the Selecao into their Group G opener against Serbia on November 24.

Brazil Dispatch Tunisia In World Cup Warm Game 

Brazil’s forward Neymar (C) celebrates scoring his team’s third goal during the friendly football match between Brazil and Tunisia at the Parc des Princes in Paris on September 27, 2022. (Photo by Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP)

 

Richarlison was the target of a banana thrown from the crowd as Brazil thrashed Tunisia 5-1 in a friendly in Paris on Tuesday, while Neymar edged closer to Pele’s all-time scoring record for the five-time world champions.

The game at the Parc des Princes was also briefly paused in the first half as the crowd were twice implored not to point laser pens at Brazil players.

“Unfortunately… a banana was thrown on the pitch towards Richarlison, scorer of the second Brazilian goal,” the Brazilian football confederation (CBF) said on Twitter.

“The CBF reinforces its position to combat racism and repudiates any prejudiced act.”

The Selecao produced a dominant first-half display in their final outing before travelling to Qatar for the World Cup, with Raphinha netting twice and Neymar moving to within two of Pele’s record.

Richarlison also found the net, while Pedro scored as a second-half substitute before responding to more boos and missiles from the crowd by bowing in front of them in celebration.

Tite’s Brazil will head into their World Cup Group G opener against Serbia on November 24 on a 15-match unbeaten run, dating back to their Copa America final loss to Argentina last year.

The scene for a bad-tempered match was set when the vast numbers of Tunisia fans jeered the Brazilian national anthem before kick-off.

Brazil created the first clear-cut chance of the game as Neymar slipped a pass through for Lucas Paqueta, but he could only fire a shot into the side-netting.

The South Americans did take the lead in the 12th minute, though, as Casemiro clipped the ball over the top and Barcelona winger Raphinha directed a wonderful looping header over Tunisia goalkeeper Aymen Dahmen and into the net.

Jalel Kadri’s men hit back six minutes later.

Defender Montassar Talbi met Anis Slimane’s outswinging free-kick to send a powerful header into the bottom corner past ‘keeper Alisson.

Incredibly, Brazil were back ahead just seconds after that setback, as Raphinha sent Richarlison in behind to drill a strike through the legs of Dahmen to score his third goal in two games after a double against Ghana.

The Tottenham forward celebrated in front of the Tunisian supporters, who responded by throwing a banana and plastic cups in his direction.

Fred kicked the banana off the pitch, before extra security guards took up residence on the side of the field.

READ ALSO: Son Shines As Cameroon Lose To South Korea In World Cup Warm-Up

Neymar nets penalty

Brazil almost extended their advantage as Paqueta followed a fine turn with a low shot which Dahmen tipped wide.

But from the resulting corner, Casemiro was hauled down in the box and Neymar stepped up to roll home his 75th international goal from the penalty spot, despite having lasers pointed at his face.

Brazil continued to cut through the visitors’ defence with ease and Raphinha scored again in the 40th minute by firing in off the post from the edge of the box.

Things went from bad to worse for Tunisia before half-time as Dylan Bronn brought down Neymar and was harshly sent off after a brief melee between the two teams.

Tunisia were much improved after the break but Brazil still scored again with 16 minutes remaining through Flamengo forward Pedro’s maiden goal for his country.

Earlier on Tuesday, World Cup hosts Qatar survived a late penalty miss by Alexis Sanchez to hold Chile to a 2-2 draw in Vienna.

Canada, who are preparing for their first World Cup since 1986, lost 2-0 to Uruguay in Bratislava as Liverpool’s Darwin Nunez scored his third international goal.

Sardar Azmoun scored as a substitute to earn Iran a 1-1 draw with African champions Senegal.

AFP

Neymar To Be Tried Over Irregularities In Barcelona Transfer

French football club team Paris Saint-Germain’s Neymar Jr (R) walks in front of teammate Lionel Messi (L) during their training session at Suita stadium in Osaka on July 24, 2022, on the eve of their team’s friendly match against Gamba Osaka as part of their summer tour of Japan. (Photo by TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA / AFP)

 

 

Neymar is due to face trial in October over alleged irregularities in his transfer to Barcelona, judicial sources said on Wednesday.

The Brazilian international, his parents and former Barcelona presidents Sandro Rosell and Josep Maria Bartomeu will be tried for alleged corruption related to the forward’s move from Santos to Barcelona in 2013.

Rosell and Bartomeu will also face fraud charges in the trial which is scheduled to take place from October 17 to 31.

Neymar left Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain in 2017 for a world-record 222 million euros, but it is his move from boyhood club Santos to Barca which has caused controversy.

The case stems from a complaint by Brazilian group DIS, the former owner of a percentage of the player’s rights.

Barcelona officially said the transfer cost 57.1 million euros ($63.6 million), with 40 million euros going to Neymar’s family and 17.1 million to Santos, but Spanish prosecutors later said it actually cost at least 83.3 million euros.

DIS, which received 6.8 million of the 17.1 million euros paid to Santos, have alleged that Barca and Neymar joined forces to hide the real amount of the transfer.

On Wednesday, DIS said it was “satisfied” that there is now a date for the trial of the case, which has been in the Spanish courts since 2016.

The prosecution has requested a two-year prison sentence for Neymar, but he has insisted he was only focused on football and that he blindly trusted his father, who is also his agent.

Bartomeu took over the Barcelona presidency from his good friend Rosell, after the latter resigned in January 2014 as he faced charges of corruption over the transfer.

In 2020, Barcelona said they had been cleared by the Court of Arbitration for Sport over claims of fraud.

A document in 2020 showed Neymar owed more unpaid tax than any other individual on a Spanish authorities’ blacklist.

The tax office refused to say whether Neymar’s presence on that list was linked to his transfer from Santos.

Barcelona agreed to pay a fine of 5.5 million euros to avoid a trial in 2016 over alleged tax fraud in the signing of Neymar.

Then-president Bartomeu said at the time there had been a “tax planning error”.

Neymar has also been in trouble with Brazilian tax authorities, being fined for tax evasion in Brazil.

The 30-year-old has recently been playing on PSG’s pre-season tour of Japan as they build up for the season-opening French Champions’ Trophy against Nantes on Sunday in Tel-Aviv.

Neymar, Brazil’s second highest goalscorer of all time behind Pele, will be hoping to lead his country to a record-extending sixth World Cup title in Qatar later this year.

Brazil Don’t Need Neymar Magic To Win, Says Manager Tite

Brazil’s head coach Tite attends a team training session at Seoul World Cup Stadium in Seoul on June 1, 2022, a day before a friendly football match between South Korea and Brazil. (Photo by ANTHONY WALLACE / AFP)

 

Brazil no longer rely on superstar Neymar to win games, manager Tite said Sunday, with an Olympic gold medal-winning generation looking to step up at the World Cup.

Neymar underlined his importance to Tite’s side by netting the 72nd and 73rd goals of his Brazil career in a 5-1 friendly thrashing of South Korea in Seoul last week.

That took him within striking distance of the legendary Pele’s record of 77 goals for the five-time World Cup winners.

Tite played down Brazil’s dependence on Neymar as his team prepared to face Japan in a friendly in Tokyo on Monday, saying a new generation of players are ready to share the load.

“I have been in charge of the national team for a long time, and in that time I have made lots of mistakes and also made some good decisions,” he said.

“We have a new generation coming through and one good thing I have done is to try out a lot of players. Now we are not so dependent on one attacking player.”

Brazil won gold at the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics last year, beating Spain 2-1 in the final after extra time.

READ ALSO: WHO: 780 Monkeypox Outbreak Cases

Olympians like Richarlison and Bruno Guimaraes have broken into Tite’s senior squad, and assistant coach Cesar Sampaio said it was a “happy problem” to have.

“The players with experience and the players who won the Olympic gold here in Japan are now coming together,” said the former midfielder.

“We have players with a lot of speed and creativity, especially in attack.”

Brazil will be looking to round off their two-game trip to Asia with a win against Japan at Tokyo’s Olympic stadium on Monday.

Japan, who will be playing at the venue for the first time since it was rebuilt to host the Games, warmed up with a convincing 4-1 win over Paraguay last week.

Manager Hajime Moriyasu said his players will have to be “brave and aggressive” to beat Brazil — something Japan have never achieved in a full international.

“We want to make our mark at the World Cup and the game against Paraguay was a start towards that,” said Moriyasu.

“We need to go further than we’ve gone before and try to overcome our limits. I want the players to do that tomorrow.”

Messi Absent As PSG Suffer Worst Defeat Of The Season

Monaco’s French forward Wissam Ben Yedder (unseen) celebrates with teammates after scoring a penalty during the French L1 football match between AS Monaco and Paris Saint Germain (PSG) at the Louis II Stadium (Stade Louis II) in the Principality of Monaco on March 20, 2022. CLEMENT MAHOUDEAU / AFP

 

Paris Saint-Germain were beaten 3-0 at Monaco on Sunday after a Wissam Ben Yedder double strike, as Neymar and Kylian Mbappe were both booked in a feisty Ligue 1 encounter. It was the club’s worst defeat this season.

PSG remain 15 points clear of second-placed Marseille at the top of Ligue 1 after the fourth league defeat of the season for Mauricio Pochettino’s men, who have been shaken since being dumped out of the Champions League by Real Madrid.

Nice can close the gap to 12 points if they beat Marseille in Sunday’s late Ligue 1 game.

Monaco captain Ben Yedder is now Ligue 1’s top scorer with 18 goals after his 25th-minute tap-in from a rebound, and an 84th-minute penalty.

Ben Yedder also helped in the build-up for German striker Kevin Volland’s goal for Monaco, making it 2-0 on 68 minutes in what was the real turning point of the game as PSG began to chase.

Mbappe and Neymar started for PSG and had a string of opportunities as the visitors enjoyed the lion’s share of possession.

READ ALSO: Barcelona’s ‘Doors Are Open’ To Messi – Xavi

Monaco’s German forward Kevin Volland (C) celebrates with Monaco’s French midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni (C-R) after scoring the second goal during the French L1 football match between AS Monaco and Paris Saint Germain (PSG) at the Louis II Stadium (Stade Louis II) in the Principality of Monaco on March 20, 2022. Valery HACHE / AFP

 

Mbappe said the bitterness of the Champions League defeat earlier this month was still felt at the club.

“We could win 8-0 and nobody would care, they’d just be thinking about the Champions League,” he said.

“We need to remain professional, think of our families,” said Mbappe, who was full of praise for his old club.

“They are a great team, playing in European competition,” said the 23-year-old.

PSG captain Marquinhos described the defeat as a wake-up call.

“If we carry on like that the title will be in danger. We have been warned,” he said.

“We came here to win and have fun, but that was a catastrophe.”

PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino said it was time his players picked themselves up.

“On a sporting level, that was shameful. We have to get over the disappointment of being eliminated from the Champions League,” the Argentine said.

Monaco’s Belgian coach Philippe Clement can also thank his goalkeeper Alexander Nuebel, who made important saves from Mbappe, Neymar, and the marauding Moroccan Achraf Hakimi.

AFP

Fans Boo Messi And PSG Stars Despite Win Over Bordeaux

Paris Saint-Germain’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi (L) runs with the ball during the French L1 football match between Paris-Saint Germain (PSG) and Girondins de Bordeaux at The Parc des Princes Stadium, in Paris on March 13, 2022. Alain JOCARD / AFP

 

Paris Saint-Germain beat Ligue 1 strugglers Bordeaux 3-0 on Sunday amid incessant whistles directed at stars including Lionel Messi and Neymar from home fans furious at another European exit.

Amid a gloomy atmosphere in the French capital, only Kylian Mbappe, who scored both goals in the last-16 Champions League defeat to Real Madrid, escaped the wrath of the fans.

On Sunday, Mbappe was again on target, scoring the opening goal after 24 minutes with Neymar and Leandro Paredes adding two more in the second half.

Read Also: Barcelona Hammer Real Madrid To Clinch Women’s League Title

The Parisians hold a 15-point lead on second-placed Nice and are on track to equal Saint-Etienne’s record of 10 French titles, but the frustration of their home fans spilled over.

Seven-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi was booed as never before in his career, even in the rare bad times with Argentina, and whistled at every touch of the ball.

Coach Mauricio Pochettino said the players had greeted the hostility “with sadness”.

“No-one who loves PSG, its colours, and who feels the frustration of elimination, can experience it in any other way.

“Sadness. I think that’s the right word. The sadness of experiencing an afternoon like this here at the Parc des Princes.

“Messi and Neymar? We are all affected, we understand the disappointment and frustration, which we also share. But we are responsible. We only have to assume it as a team and we will be united until the end.”

Ligue 1 is Pochettino’s side’s only objective this season.

“We are satisfied with the performance of the team in difficult circumstances, the team responded, with a professional performance, with a 3-0,” added the Argentine.

Mbappe blasted in the first goal from Georginio Wijnaldum’s pass cross in a move also involving Messi. It was the World Cup winner’s 15th goal of the season in Ligue 1.

Neymar added a second seven minutes after the break with Messi again sending through for Achraf Hakimi who teed up the Brazilian to finish off.

Leandro Paredes got on the scoresheet for the first time this season after an hour blasting the ball into the top of the net.

Bordeaux have lost seven of their ten away games this season, and sit bottom of the table.

PSG Star Neymar Ruled Out For Six-Eight Weeks

Paris Saint-Germain’s Brazilian forward Neymar is evacuated on a stretcher after an injury during the French L1 football match between AS Saint-Etienne and Paris Saint Fermain (PSG), at the Geoffroy-Guichard stadium in Saint-Etienne, central France, on November 28, 2021.
Jeff PACHOUD / AFP

 

Neymar is expected to be sidelined for between six and eight weeks after sustaining ligament damage to his left ankle, Paris Saint-Germain said on Monday.

The Brazil star was stretchered from the pitch in tears after suffering the injury in the final minutes of Sunday’s 3-1 victory at Saint-Etienne.

“The examinations carried out last night confirm that Neymar Jr suffered from a sprained left ankle with ligament damage,” PSG said in a statement, adding that a further update would be made in 72 hours.

AFP

Messi Sets Up PSG Comeback Win Marred By Neymar Injury

Paris Saint-Germain’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi reacts as the snow falls during the French L1 football match between AS Saint-Etienne and Paris Saint Fermain (PSG), at the Geoffroy-Guichard stadium in Saint-Etienne, central France, on November 28, 2021. (Photo by Jeff PACHOUD / AFP)

 

Paris Saint-Germain overturned an early deficit to beat 10-man Saint-Etienne 3-1 away in Ligue 1 on Sunday, with Lionel Messi setting up all three goals.

The match also featured the long-awaited PSG debut of Spanish defender Sergio Ramos, while Neymar left the pitch sobbing in agony, stretchered off with an ankle injury.

Still in November, the result leaves PSG on 40 points, 14 clear of second-placed Nice, who lost 1-0 at home to struggling Metz on Saturday.

Saint-Etienne took a surprise lead when Denis Bouanga beat the offside trap to fire a shot past Gianluigi Donnarumma on 23 minutes, a flag went up but a VAR review awarded the goal.

The hosts, languishing in the bottom two but on the back of two straight league wins, held their own against PSG, who appeared more affected by the freezing cold and gusting snow.

All that changed with a red card.

There was no VAR to save the hosts on the stroke of half-time when back-tracking defender Timothee Kolodziejczak was sent off for a flailing challenge on Kylian Mbappe.

PSG then levelled when Marquinhos scored with a towering header as Messi floated in the subsequent free-kick, sending in the sides level, but with the hosts hanging their heads.

“At best that was too harsh,” said Saint-Etienne coach Claude Puel. “It changed the match, we were leading and doing well.”

The second half was one-way traffic with further goals coming from Angel Di Maria on 79 and centre-back Marquinhos with his second in time added on — Messi again providing inch-perfect passes.

But there was bad news for PSG late on as Neymar fell in full flight after treading on a defender’s leg and twisting his ankle in a way that made his teammates wince.

“That’s life,” Neymar said on Instagram. “I’ll be back better and stronger.”

The result sees Saint-Etienne slip to the foot of the table, behind Metz on goal difference.

Messi Taken Off At Half-Time As PSG Narrowly Beat Lille

Paris Saint-Germain's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi (L) and Paris Saint-Germain's Brazilian forward Neymar react during the French L1 football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and LOSC Lille at the Parc des Princes stadium, in Paris, on October 29, 2021. FRANCK FIFE / AFP
Paris Saint-Germain’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi (L) and Paris Saint-Germain’s Brazilian forward Neymar react during the French L1 football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and LOSC Lille at the Parc des Princes stadium, in Paris, on October 29, 2021.
FRANCK FIFE / AFP

 

Neymar set up Angel Di Maria to score an 88th-minute winner as Paris Saint-Germain came from behind once again, this time to beat reigning French champions Lille 2-1 on Friday.

With Kylian Mbappe missing and Lionel Messi taken off at half-time, PSG needed captain Marquinhos to equalise in the 74th minute after Jonathan David had given the away side a first-half lead at the Parc des Princes.

Di Maria had set up the equaliser and he then arrived to fire low into the net from Neymar’s lay-off and secure a win that allows PSG to extend their lead at the top of Ligue 1 to a massive 10 points over second-placed Lens before the rest of the weekend’s games.

Nevertheless this was another in a long line of disjointed displays from Mauricio Pochettino’s team and the coach was again left with questions to answer.

READ ALSO: Solskjaer Fights For Man Utd Job As Top Three Flex Muscles

It was the third time in four home league games that PSG have come from behind to score a late winning goal, and here it came against a Lille side who are in mid-table after a poor start to their title defence.

The absence of top-scorer Mbappe due to illness did not help, nor did that of injured playmaker Marco Verratti.

“It is not by chance that the team responded the way they did. It shows the mentality and the character that they have,” Pochettino insisted.

“We want to win in the best possible manner, and by the biggest margin. The truth is that it’s often a struggle but it’s not by chance that we have won 10 league games out of 12.”

Messi’s goal drought

Messi was taken off at the interval and is still without a goal after five appearances in Ligue 1. That record is surely not what anyone expected from him when he arrived in August.

Perhaps he eventually will start scoring for fun in France, but he will go into November still looking to break his duck.

To be fair Messi has been making an impact in the Champions League, with three goals in three appearances in Europe.

His premature substitution here was a precautionary measure ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League clash with RB Leipzig in Germany -– the Argentinian had been struggling with a minor injury during the week.

“We think he will be available for the match against Leipzig,” Pochettino told broadcaster Amazon Prime.

Neymar’s form has also been a source of concern, and the Brazilian still has just one goal to his name this season, and that from a penalty.

Here the world’s most expensive player sometimes cut a frustrated figure and talked his way into a late booking, but that was before he teed up Di Maria for the winner.

Earlier Lille were rewarded for a fine first-half showing with the opening goal just after the half-hour mark.

Burak Yilmaz, who had come close to scoring in the first minute, got to the byline and cut the ball back for Canada striker David to turn it into the net from close range.

Yilmaz was then denied by Gianluigi Donnarumma early in the second half but PSG pushed in search of an equaliser and eventually got it as Di Maria’s chipped ball from the byline was turned in by Marquinhos.

Mauro Icardi, who had replaced Messi at the break, missed a great chance to win it for the home side before Di Maria struck.

Second-placed Lens are in action on Saturday away to Lyon.

Mbappe Takes Centre Stage For PSG In Absence Of Messi, Neymar

Paris Saint-Germain’s French forward Kylian Mbappe reacts during the French L1 football match between Stade Brestois and Paris Saint-Germain at Francis-Le Ble Stadium in Brest on August 20, 2021. LOIC VENANCE / AFP

 

Lionel Messi, Neymar and a host of other South American stars are missing for Paris Saint-Germain this weekend but Kylian Mbappe will take centre stage after starring for France in their successful UEFA Nations League campaign.

Messi, along with Leandro Paredes and Angel Di Maria, is with Argentina for their 2022 World Cup qualifier against Peru which was not due to kick off until early on Friday morning, French time.

Neymar and Marquinhos have been with Brazil, due to play Uruguay in a qualifier at the same time.

A third round of South American World Cup qualifiers in quick succession, so close to the weekend, has caused problems for clubs in Europe, where so many leading players are based.

PSG are one of many forced to prepare for matches this weekend without their South American stars, who will not be able to return in time.

“The different federations and FIFA all need to come together so that this type of situation doesn’t happen again,” said PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino when asked about the manic schedule facing his players.

However, he added: “I am not looking for excuses. We have a big squad and it gives a chance to other players.”

Mbappe is available and on a high after scoring two goals and setting up two more as France won the Nations League in Italy.

Mbappe, who scored in the 2018 World Cup final as a teenager, got the decisive goal in last weekend’s final against Spain in Milan.

The 22-year-old’s future remains a subject of much debate with his contract up at the end of this season and Real Madrid waiting in the wings.

READ ALSO: Quicker Vaccinations Key to Pandemic Recovery, Says IMF

“The club will do everything to keep Kylian,” Pochettino told Spanish radio station Cope this week when inevitably pressed on the matter.

“As coach I would love him to stay here for many years to come.”

In Ligue 1 Mbappe has scored four goals this season with PSG already six points clear of Lens at the top of the table despite seeing their perfect start ended in a 2-0 defeat at Rennes two weeks ago.

After Friday’s game they play host to RB Leipzig in the Champions League in what will be their first European outing since beating Manchester City late last month.

Player to watch: Mohamed-Ali Cho

Cho was born in the Paris suburbs and spent time in PSG’s academy, so it will be a special occasion when he comes up against the capital side with Angers this weekend.

Still just 17, winger Cho is a prodigious talent who has already played in 30 top-flight games.

Cho actually spent much of his childhood in England and represented them as a youth international while on the books at Everton.

However, having signed professional terms with Angers, he has broken into the France Under-21 side at the start of this season and looks to have a very exciting future ahead of him.

Key stats

4 – Mbappe has gone four Ligue 1 games without scoring, his longest drought in France’s top flight since May 2018.

190 – The total number of minutes played in Ligue 1 by Messi since he joined PSG.

17 – The number of goals scored by Lille’s Jonathan David in Ligue 1 in 2021. He is fresh from scoring for Canada in a 2022 World Cup qualifier against Panama on Wednesday.

Fixtures (kick-offs GMT)

Friday

Paris Saint-Germain v Angers (1900)

Saturday

Clermont v Lille (1500), Lyon v Monaco (1900)

Sunday

Troyes v Nice (1100), Bordeaux v Nantes, Brest v Reims, Metz v Rennes, Strasbourg v Saint-Etienne (all 1300), Montpellier v Lens (1500), Marseille v Lorient (1845)