All the attention was on the 25-year-old as he made his competitive debut for PSG, and he didn’t disappoint with a goal and an assist against Guingamp
There was a certain irony that on the evening that Paris Saint-Germain paraded the most expensive signing in the history of football that it was one of their youth products who made the breakthrough.
Sadly, for Jordan Ikoko, he now finds himself contracted to Guingamp and on the night his club featured in what will probably prove to be their most-watched match ever, it was little short of a personal disaster that he planted a back pass into the bottom corner of his own goal under pressure that could only charitably be described as moderate.
Neymar was, of course, the main attraction, the man everyone had come to see. He did not disappoint, showing numerous flashes of his world-class ability and ending the match with a goal and an assist.
His strike at the end – a simple six-yard tap in from an Edinson Cavani pull back – was richly deserved as he had regaled the crowd with a display worthy of one of the game’s elite players.
“If the Roudourou had 200,000 seats, we could fill them all,” Guingamp head coach Antoine Kombouare commented when it became evident that the Brazilian’s first competitive appearance as the world’s most expensive player could come at his side’s tight home ground.
The tiny Breton town – little more than a village – was an unlikely setting for a €222 million footballer to make his bow, having last week become twice as expensive as any player in the history of his profession.
His introduction at the Parc des Princes eight days previous proved to be more of an event than PSG’s 2-0 victory over Amiens and on Sunday the guests were similarly frustrated before being gifted their quite incredible opener.
And there was a festival atmosphere at Stade du Roudourou, where the home fans fancied their chances against their expensive opponents. Guingamp, after all, have made a habit of tripping Unai Emery’s men up in recent years, with a 2-0 success over the capital side just before Christmas last season making their task of regaining their title nearly impossible.
Neymar has been signed to regain that crown and to aid the Parisian side in becoming Europe’s premier outfit. It did not take him long to show that he has the potential to elevate PSG to previously unattained heights.
His first possession of the ball in his new colours nearly resulted in an assist; a sharp through pass towards Angel Di Maria was only marginally over hit.
In the second half, a similar situation resulted in a goal for Edinson Cavani. Gathering the ball around the halfway line, the Brazilian played a perfectly judged pass for the centre forward that allowed him the time and space required to put the game out of sight.
There were few signs that Neymar will need any time to settle down. He took up the role as PSG’s playmaker in chief, often coming off his role on the left wing to drift into space, enjoying a more integral role to the workings of his team than he was offered at Barcelona.
Already there is ample evidence that he will be offered the opportunity to express himself as a more multi-dimensional footballer than would be possible at Camp Nou, where Lionel Messi is, understandably, untouchable.
Fitness will certainly not be an issue. He was a blur of perpetual motion, motoring around the field at high speed each time he was involved. More than once he caught unwary defenders in dangerous areas owing to his industry.
His goal with barely five minutes remaining capped a memorable evening, and even if it was one of the simplest he will ever score, there is no doubt that the slow process of paying off his record transfer fee has begun.