2020 Should Be Neymar's Year Of Redemption
The Brazilian could be the difference for both PSG and country after showing signs of finally growing up.
2019 was not Neymar’s year.
The Brazilian is a polarizing figure at the best of times, but last year may very well go down as his worst of times - having tried, and failed, to force through a transfer from Paris Saint Germain back to Barcelona.
There were also a number of suspensions, including one for throwing a fist at a fan at the Coupe de France final, his usual late-season injury troubles, resulting in PSG’s usual failings in the Champions League. It made Neymar’s entire 2019 a year best left forgotten.
Though he, perhaps as a sign he’s finally growing up, has chosen to learn from it:
Professionally and personally, 2019 was a tough year for me. It was a year full of learning and turnarounds. I am taking the positive side of it so that 2020 can be better.
Neymar did pick up a trophy last year, but it’s been a long time since PSG were able to claim the Ligue 1 title as proof of a successful season, such is their dominance domestically.
That they didn’t win either the Coupe de France or Coupe de la Ligue alongside it, was further evidence of a subpar season from Les Parisiens, one that shouldn’t prove too difficult to improve on in 2019-20.
And Neymar can easily be the difference-maker in that, by actually being on the pitch.
If there’s one thing that’s never been in dispute about the Brazilian, it’s just how talented a footballer he is.
Neymar scored 16 times and assisted for another 11 to contribute to 27 goals in 2019. But considering he only featured in 21 from a possible 54 PSG matches throughout the year, there was an awful lot of talent wasted in the stands after missing five games through suspension and a massive 27 through injury.
Perhaps worst of all for Neymar personally, was that his injuries saw him miss out on Brazil’s Copa America triumph - forced to watch on from the director's box as the Selecao lifted the trophy for the first time in 12 years after beating Peru in the final.
With yet another South American Championship in 2020, Neymar has the opportunity to right that wrong, on top of the long list he has with PSG:
My biggest expectation for 2020 is to win everything I can with PSG and the Brazilian team. I'll seek new challenges, I want to be in the Champions League final, I want to win the Copa America once again.
With Brazil being the only nation in South America with its head screwed on, a first Copa America is certainly within reach for Neymar (should he stay fit), but the Champions League with PSG?
Yes, I think there's a possibility we can make it. In terms of the team and players, since I've played for PSG, this is the most prepared and strongest year we had in my opinion. So, I think we have a chance. Although PSG has never won the Champions League, we are going to fight for this title. We know our values and we hope to be in the final.
Neymar’s annual injuries have been a big part of PSG’s recent failings in the Champions League. He missed the Round of 16 second leg when they were knocked out by Real Madrid in 2018, and the same match at the same stage when Les Parisiens were dumped by Manchester United in 2019.
But Neymar’s presence doesn’t guarantee anything - after all, he was on the pitch the full 90 minutes for PSG's 3-3 draw against Ligue 1 strugglers Monaco on Sunday. Though considering he was the only PSG player to actually score in that game, having him on the pitch certainly helps.
PSG’s first Champion's League knockout tie this year is against Bundesliga giants Borussia Dortmund, a side they’ve never lost to - but also never beaten either - after playing out two draws in the 2010 Champions League group stage. Although BVB boss Lucien Farve is wary of the threat that Neymar and PSG possess:
They have a fantastic team, we know that, with Neymar and (Kylian) Mbappe, we always talk about both, but we have time to look forward to this game, we play only in February.
Perhaps Favre needn’t be so worried. Neymar, of course, has plenty of time to get injured before the Champions League returns. But should he make it out for both legs against Dortmund, Neymar’s 2020 will already be looking better than his 2019.