Dubai: Paris St-Germain coach Thomas Tuchel would secretly be thinking: “I told you so!” as star striker Neymar was ruled out of Tuesday’s Ligue 1 match against Nantes the day after a lavish birthday bash in Paris.
Tuchel had warned that the party was an unnecessary ‘distraction’ ahead of the crunch league match but gave his players leave to attend the Brazilain’s 28th birthday celebrations at the swanky Yo-Yo club in the French capital on Sunday night.
Come Monday, and Neymar is ruled out with a cartilage injury. He reportedly picked up the knock during the first half of Saturday’s Ligue 1 match against Montpellier, but there seemed to be no ill effects as he made his way to his party in the Paris rain less than 24 hours later on Sunday.
Tuchel was adamant there is no more to his absence against Nantes than the injury, despite his public concerns over the soirée.
“Is it the best way to prepare for a match? No, clearly not,” Tuchel said on Monday as news of Neymar’s injury was confirmed.
Trying to be his diplomatic best, Tuchel added: “I always protect my players, and I really love my team. With this party, I accept that it is a bit difficult to protect the players, but the context is not simply black or white.
“It is a shame, because we are giving people the chance to speak badly of us. We need to adapt to the situation, but I am not going to leave a player on the bench or at home because they went out and celebrated.”
Not for the first time, Neymar has rocked the boat and is out of the squad, and with Barcelona still knocking on the door for their star Brazilian to return to Camp Nou, it could be the beginning of the end of his stint in France.
If that wasn’t enough for Tuchel to contend with, he had to keep his Kofi Annan hat on to play down reports of a rift with French hero Kylian Mbappe, who exchanged angry words with his coach when he was substituted in the game against Mointpellier.
“There is nothing personal between him and me. These things happen,” said Tuchel.
Mbappe reacted angrily to being substituted midway through the second half of PSG’s 5-0 victory at the Parc des Princes, with Mauro Icardi taking his place, with the 21-year-old throwing away a training top in disgust.
“It was between a player who does not want to come off, and a coach who had his reasons for doing something, and who wanted to give a game to players who deserved it.
“I know it is hard to accept for some players, but these are sporting matters that they should be able to understand.”
Given the pulling power of both Mbappe — the World Cup-winning French pin-up boy across the country — and Neymar, if push comes to shove, you can be sure which one will be shown the door by the board.