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Neymar: 'Better and better with every game'

Publish on 10/01/2019 at 00:00 - S. WILLIS

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Now in his second season with PSG, Neymar - the reigning Ligue 1 Player of the Season - is continuing to excel in France's top flight. The Brazilian talks leadership, Manchester United and the ever-improving MCN partnership...

Already with 11 goals and 5 assists to his name, Neymar is enjoying life under Thomas Tuchel.

"We had two discussions before the world cup, and I could tell he was a bit different, someone who wants to take the team a long way, to do everything to fight for the title. And he's doing that very well," Neymar told This is Paris of his new boss. "He's a very calm person, but he demands a lot, he's always looking for the best solution for the team and for every player. He's affectionate too. He's a good man but he also knows when to put his foot down."

The former Borussia Dortmund coach has handed Neymar a new role. Positioned on the left flank under Unai Emery, the 26-year-old is playing as a veritable number 10 these days, roaming in a free role behind PSG's strikers.

Pulling the strings

"I have a lot of freedom in this role. I can play closer to the strikers, but at the same time it's a role I'm very much used to playing. So I feel very good, I'm motivated and I'm happy to play there," said Neymar of his plenipotentiary role. "For every player at this level, having that freedom is a good thing, because we can launch an attack at any moment, decide the match and help the team. That's why I'm very happy to have this freedom, but I also know what I have to do to deserve it! I have to do something different that enables my team to win."

"I always try to play well and to give my best on the pitch," he continued. "I want to help the team in the best way possible. But I'm not playing on my own, I also need my teammates to help me, just like I need to help them."

Cool, calm and... collective

Accused by his detractors of being too individualistic last season, Neymar is trying to adopt a more collective approach this time around; by working hard for the team, he hopes to be an example for his teammates.

"It's difficult to transmit. I think it's about showing the right attitude, both defensively and offensively - and that's something I can do. But it's not only me; we have other experienced players like Thiago Silva and Dani Alves. If they do something well, the others see that and try to do the same," he explained. "Well, it's the same for me. I don't talk a lot but I want to set an example for my teammates through my performances on the pitch. That's what makes us stronger and allows us to improve."

For the team

Neymar's selfless attitude has been on display in the Champions League too. The Brazil forward was struggling with a groin injury before the final must-win game away to Red Star Belgrade, but he put the pain to one side to ensure PSG emerged as group winners.

"There was a chance that we could have gone out, but I managed to recover quicker than expected to be able to play. I wasn't at 100% - everyone knew that - but it was a calculated risk that I had to take to help the team one way or another on the field, to fight to ensure everything went well. We put in a great performance and got a great victory."

Red Devils looming

"I responded well, and now we have two matches to come between two great teams. We know the qualities Manchester United have; their players are winners. They have changed the coach so their philosophy will be different. They are undergoing changes but we know the quality they have there," warned the Brazilian. "I enjoy the big games - it's always great to play in matches like these. I'm really pleased that we are facing Manchester United."

United may be doing better since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer replaced Jose Mourinho in the dugout, but Neymar is confident that he and fellow strikers Kylian Mbappé and Edinson Cavani possess the firepower necessary to hurt the English giants.

Ominous

"We're very happy and our understanding is getting better and better with every game; we know each other better," he explained somewhat ominously for opposition defences. "That's our aim: to ensure everyone is happy, to provide assists to ensure the everyone scores and everyone finishes the game happy. Even if the most important thing is that the team win."

Fearsome

With 34 league goals among them in the first half of the season alone, Neymar, Mbappé and Cavani have made PSG one of Europe's most feared teams.

"Our objective is to be champions, without losing, and without giving away points to our opponents," said the superstar, evidently not afraid to aim high. "We want to break all the records."