Neymar revival sparked by PSG ´artist´ acknowledging his dip, says Galtier

Neymar has roared back to form for Paris Saint-Germain after accepting he fell short of his high standards last season, according to coach Christophe Galtier.

The Brazil star has been PSG’s outstanding forward, managing 10 goals and seven assists in eight starts and one substitute appearance so far.

He is close to matching last season’s returns already, having scored a modest 13 times and assisted eight goals in 28 games during the 2021-22 campaign.

It has been a return to the Neymar of his prime Barcelona days, and PSG are enjoying the benefits.

“I think it would be disrespectful to think it is just down to me and my technical staff,” Galtier said. “Neymar has an awareness of the fact that his performances were not as good last season.

“He has high targets. He came back fit at the start of pre-season. He worked very hard before that. My staff and I decided to play him in the best position to be an artist.

“When Neymar is in a good state mentally and physically, that is what he does and that is how he performs well. The key thing to understand is that, as the coach, he is a player who works extremely hard for the team both going forward and in terms of winning the ball back.”

Galtier’s team will play Maccabi Haifa on Wednesday in their second Champions League group game, having made a winning start last week against Juventus.

The teams have only met twice before in European competition, with both of those games coming in the Cup Winners’ Cup first round in 1998-99. The side from Israel won 4-3 on aggregate but go into this rematch with few expecting them to get the better of star-studded opposition.

Maccabi Haifa have lost each of their last seven Champions League games, going down by an aggregate score of 10-0. Only one team in the history of the Champions League have lost eight in a row while failing to score each time, with Dinamo Zagreb doing so between November 2015 and December 2016.

For PSG, Kylian Mbappe has either scored or assisted in each of his last nine Champions League games (8 goals, 4 assists). He has found the net in each of his last five games, his longest scoring streak in the competition.

As well as Mbappe and Neymar, PSG can also call on Lionel Messi, who is set to face Israeli competition for the first time in the Champions League. A goal in this game would make Messi the outright leader for the most different sides scored against by one player in the Champions League. He is currently on 38, level with Cristiano Ronaldo.

PSG are back in Israel barely six weeks after playing the Trophee des Champions match in Tel Aviv, where they beat Nantes 4-0, with Messi and Neymar both among the goals.

“While we had the support of the Israeli fans for the Trophee des Champions, this time we will be playing in a stadium that will be behind its team,” Galtier said.

“It will be a heated atmosphere. In terms of the Israeli league, I am convinced every team in Europe is hard to play against. Everyone tries to raise the bar, and Israeli football has significantly improved with coaches who are well travelled and can take what they have seen elsewhere and bring in foreign players that boost their teams.”

PSG are without injured defender Presnel Kimpembe, and Galtier is deliberating over whether to persist with his 3-5-2 formation after losing such a key figure.

Missing out on prime target Milan Skriniar in the transfer window, when Inter held firm, is looking increasingly like a major blow for the French side.

“We wanted an extra centre-back because it’s a crazy schedule now,” Galtier said. “We were right about that. I understand that the president couldn’t change the stance of Inter, and we are going to work with the squad that we have here.

“I have some versatile players, and we will see how it goes. Will we have to change the system? Possibly. We also have some very good young players who can slot in to the upcoming games. That is why it was important for us and for [football advisor] Luis Campos to get that centre-back, but unfortunately we did not manage to.”