Paris (AFP) – Paris Saint-Germain were revelling in the joy of knocking holders Bayern Munich out of the Champions League in midweek when Neymar offered more cause for celebration.
In an interview with Brazilian broadcaster TNT Sports following PSG’s away-goals victory in the quarter-finals, Neymar dropped a clear hint that he would be staying at PSG beyond the end of his current contract.
“For me there is no debate, it is obvious that I feel very comfortable here and at home at Paris Saint-Germain. I feel happier than I did before,” the world’s most expensive player said.
His current contract, signed following his arrival from Barcelona for 222 million euros ($264m) in 2017, runs out at the end of next season, at the same time as Kylian Mbappe’s deal.
It has been reported in France since the Bayern game that PSG are hoping to be able to announce Neymar’s new deal before facing Manchester City in the first leg of a blockbuster Champions League semi-final on April 28.
The Qatar-owned club will then hope that can persuade Mbappe to accept an extension of his own rather than opt to join one of their major rivals.
“Kylian and Neymar have no excuse for wanting to leave,” insisted PSG president Nasser al-Khelaifi after Tuesday’s match.
There is no indication Neymar is lying when he states how happy he is now.
Two years ago a return to Barcelona seemed inevitable, but now the Catalans appear unable to afford the Brazilian anyway, and PSG are confirming their potential in the Champions League too.
There is no longer any need for him to want away, and PSG will hope he can now go on to play a leading role in the final weeks of the season as they target success at home and abroad.
As well as the ongoing quest for a first Champions League title, PSG are locked in a four-way fight for the Ligue 1 crown but trail leaders Lille by three points with six games left.
Neymar has rarely featured in Ligue 1 this season, injuries and suspensions reducing his input to 13 appearances.
As it happens, he is suspended for Sunday’s match against Saint-Etienne as he completes a two-game ban following a recent red card against Lille.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side must therefore look to keep the pressure on their domestic title rivals without their Brazilian superstar, who can return against Angers in the French Cup quarter-finals next midweek.
Player to watch: Etienne Green
The English-born goalkeeper has had quite a start to life in Ligue 1. He saved a penalty on his Saint-Etienne debut in a 2-0 win at Nimes two weeks ago and kept his place for last weekend’s 4-1 victory over Bordeaux.
Green, 20, must have been destined to play for Saint-Etienne, nicknamed Les Verts for their iconic green jerseys.
Born in England, Green moved with his family to France as a child, and said he was named Etienne to remind his French mother of home. He joined Saint-Etienne aged nine, signed professional terms last year, and was promoted to the first team thanks to an injury to the usual first-choice goalkeeper.
On Sunday Green and Saint-Etienne go to PSG.
3 – PSG have lost their last three home league games, their worst run at the Parc des Princes since October 2007. They have never lost four consecutive home league games in the top-flight.
5 – Bordeaux’s South Korean forward Hwang Ui-jo has scored five goals in his last four games. He has 11 goals in total this season.
12 – Bottom club Dijon have lost their last 12 Ligue 1 games in a row, matching the record for most consecutive defeats in French top-flight history. Another loss against Nice could confirm their relegation with five matches to spare if other results go against them.
Lille v Montpellier (1900)
Angers v Rennes (1045), Marseille v Lorient (1500)
Paris Saint-Germain v Saint-Etienne (1100), Brest v Lens, Dijon v Nice, Nimes v Strasbourg, Reims v Metz (all 1300), Bordeaux v Monaco (1505), Nantes v Lyon (1900)
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