Wenger: 'Happy Neymar is staying at PSG '
Arsène Wenger may have taken a break from management, but the former Monaco and Arsenal boss is still as passionate as ever and continues to keep a close eye on the goings-on in his homeland…
Like everyone, the Frenchman followed the Neymar saga with keen interest, and despite the fact that the Brazilian's popularity has plunged in the French capital, Wenger insists it's good news for the champions that their mercurial number ten has stayed.
"I believe Neymar is one of the best players in the world and I'm happy he's staying at PSG. Because when you lose one of the two or three best players in the world, there's every chance you'll lose the other one the following year. In general, when the best players leave, it provokes the departures of others," the Frenchman told the Ligue 1 Show.
"Despite all the money in football, it's very difficult to get players who truly make the difference. Even when you have the money. So when you have players like this, you have to keep them. And when I say 'make the difference', I mean make the difference in the big games. Personally I believe that Neymar is in this category of players."
But there are some doubts concerning the Brazilian maestro.
"The only question mark is his fitness," noted Wenger. "Over the last two seasons he hasn't played a lot of games. If you have the status he has, you cannot be in and out all the time. But for me, the fact he is staying is good news."
Leonardo's return as PSG sporting director coincided with a host of new arrivals. For Wenger, the best signing of all could prove to be Keylor Navas, the Costa Rican goalkeeper who has signed on loan from Real Madrid.
"I think he's a super goalkeeper," declared the veteran tactician. "A really good signing for PSG."
However, the summer also saw Inter striker Mauro Icardi jet in on loan to join a fellow new recruits Idrissa Gueye, Ander Herrera and Pablo Sarabia, whose signings Wenger saw as exactly hat the capital club needed.
"They've lost a lot of very good midfielders in recent years; midfield used to be their strength. With Thiago Motta, Blaise Matuidi, Adrien Rabiot going, they've lost a lot of quality there, so they needed to strengthen," said Wenger. "They've signed good players, players who can stabilise the midfield, ensure they keep possession and remain defensively solid. In terms of creative players, PSG have the people who can make a difference. They needed to bring in this type of solid profile. Will they be up to the task? It's up to them to do the job."
Naturally Wenger is enjoying seeing his former players carry his flame in to the world of coaching. While Thierry Henry is no longer a Ligue 1 Conforama manager, Patrick Vieira continues to thrive at Nice, and Sylvinho is now finding his feet with Lyon.
"It's a great source of satisfaction to see my former players move into coaching," said a proud Wenger. "Vieira clearly has the potential to be a top coach, but I think Sylvinho does too. When I see my former players making their way in coaching, it's a nice feeling. It's magical."
Learning the ropes
Sylvinho spent two seasons under Wenger at Arsenal, and certain qualities were already evident back then.
"As a player he always looked to put the team first, and he had an ability to help others. I believe he has the basic qualities you need to do the job. I didn't know necessarily that he had the spirit of a leader or a guide," observed the man who poached the Brazilian full-back from Corinthians in 1999. "He learned the ropes gradually, he got a chance at Lyon, and I'm behind him, I hope he succeeds."
The Brazilian enjoyed a good start to life in the dugout, overseeing two victories, but Lyon have struggled in their last two games.
"They needed to keep their early momentum going for longer. Now they have to find a second wind, because they've already lost a bit of that shine," Wenger observed. "They need to start winning quickly and avoid falling behind, because PSG have suffered one defeat at Rennes but they won't slip up ten times. If you put me on the spot I'd say Lyon won't be able to fight for the title with PSG."
Wenger's other protégé is part of an exciting new project at Nice. Vieira was able to bring in a raft of new signings before the window closed - with the likes of Adam Ounas, Kasper Dolberg and Alexis Claude-Maurice arriving following the takeover by INEOS.
"I find that exciting. They have some very talented young players who haven't yet totally blossomed. They may not all become big stars, but I think two or three of the new players have the potential to do well at Nice," he offered before underlining the good work done by Vieira over the last season. "And don't forget that even before the new players arrived, Nice got into a good position in the table."