Paris Saint-Germain coach Unai Emery has admitted that tensions mounted in the dressing room at the Parc des Princes last weekend following the penalty dispute between Neymar and Edinson Cavani against Lyon.
“They are two very competitive players. They want the best for the team first of all, but then they also have individual objectives,” said Emery at a press conference yesterday. “I insist: There is a good atmosphere in the squad. Just after the match it was very emotional, so you can have conversations. People might call them disputes but they are normal and happen after practically every match, in one sense or another. But it doesn’t break the harmony or the good atmosphere in the team,” insisted the Spaniard.
PSG beat Lyon 2-0 in the Ligue 1 game to make it six wins from six to start the season but the post-match debate was dominated by the penalty incident. PSG were leading 1-0 when they won a spot-kick with 10 minutes remaining for a foul on Kylian Mbappe.
Having already scored three times from the spot this season, Cavani assumed the responsibility would once again be his. Neymar tried to get the ball from the Uruguayan but it was Cavani who eventually took it, only to see his effort saved.
Emery’s inability to designate a clear first-choice penalty taker has led to criticism in some quarters of weak management from the Spaniard. “Last year, the penalty taker was Cavani. This year, with the arrival of Neymar, there are two. After that, who is number one and who is number two, that is a decision I’ll have to take,” he said yesterday.
There has been talk of tensions in the PSG dressing room between Neymar and his fellow Brazilians on one side and the rest of the squad on the other. Another incident in Sunday’s game saw Cavani and Neymar disagree over who should take a free-kick with the match still goalless. Dani Alves intervened to give his compatriot the ball on that occasion, and Neymar’s strike was saved. Signed from Juventus in the close season, Alves is already considered a highly influential figure in the Paris dressing room.
Sports daily L’Equipe reported that Alves — a former Barcelona teammate of Neymar — organised a dinner for the whole PSG squad at a restaurant in the plush 16th arrondissement of the French capital, near the Arc de Triomphe, on Wednesday evening.
But Alves has been slammed by a staunch ally of Cavani. Legendary ex-Uruguay striker Diego Forlan, now 38, called Alves’ behaviour at the free-kick “childish” in an interview on Spanish radio. “There was no sense in Dani Alves going and taking the ball. You can’t have a third person going to help one guy so the guy who always takes (free-kicks) doesn’t,” Forlan, the top scorer at the 2010 World Cup, told Cadena Cope. “It’s childish. But the Brazilians are friends so they look out for themselves.”
Alves, who scored from a free-kick on his competitive debut for PSG against Monaco in the Champions Trophy in July, hit back at Forlan on Twitter. He wrote: “I don’t know what match you saw but for your information I did not take the ball from any teammate. They took it from me! And also for your information the last free-kick goal scored by PSG was by me...so shut up and stop making a controversy in my name.”
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