At least he’s familiar with the place now. Once again, as has often happened since his move from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain in the summer of 2017, Neymar will travel to Doha, Qatar, to rehabilitate his left ankle injury at the Aspetar Clinic. This is the sixth time in the past four years that he has had an injury that requires a lot of treatment and specialist attention (and then goes to Aspetar) and will keep him out of action for several weeks.
This time, the accident that happened was misfortune. During Sunday’s 3-1 win at St-Etienne, defender Yvan Macon made a mistake, missing Neymar and the ball, but the Brazilian striker stomped on Macon’s ankle and twisted himself in the process. The ankle ligament is damaged, and he will be out of action for up to eight weeks.
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Neymar’s injury issues are well documented. The first and the second were serious as he sustained a fractured right metatarsal. The first in February 2018, just six months after arriving in Paris, ended his season (he missed 16 games in total), while the second a year later, in January of 2019, saw him miss 19 more matches, recovering to play. Part in the last three weeks of the campaign. A year ago Neymar injured his left ankle and lost five weeks and five matches for it. He was sidelined for two months and nine matches when he injured his thigh in February 2021, and before that, he ruptured his right ankle ligaments while playing for Brazil, keeping him out of action for three months (June-September 2019).
In total, if you add these injuries along with all the miscellaneous minor hits, Neymar has missed 91 games for PSG so far. It has always been a talking point, especially for a player who rarely gets injured in his four years at Camp Nou, during which he missed just 29 games.
So what happened? For a start, he’s getting older. Neymar will turn 30 in February, and given that he started playing professional football when he was 16, he already carries 14 years of effort, intensity, kicks, kicks and general pain. He may have played a lot already, and his body is now more fragile than ever. The accumulation of injuries does not help.
If we look again at Neymar’s group of problems, they often affect the same parts of his body: the foot, metatarsal, ankle, thigh, the same areas that never fully heal and are more prone to injury again. This is of course a concern, and PSG are trying to find a way to prevent these injuries as much as possible. They have to take care of Neymar’s body as much as they can, and he needs their help too. All of the unseen business — things like recovery, rest, and nutrition — will be more important than ever for a No. 10 spot. After all, he’s entering an important part of his career.
In May, Neymar finally signed a new contract until 2025 with PSG, with the option of an additional year. That’s a long time, and to make the most of these coming years, his fitness will be key. He is aware of this. He reportedly did not like the criticism about his extra weight in the summer. It took him a while to get back to his peak fitness, and be the best version of himself on the pitch as well. Only when he was hitting like this did the injury happen against Saint-Etienne.
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Within Neymar’s entourage, there is a sense of misfortune when it comes to what the striker is going through, but PSG are unconcerned. They hope Neymar will return, fully fit and ready for the main matches in the Champions League – the first leg of the round of 16 will be on February 15 or 16, the second leg on February 22 or 23 – – and in Ligue 1 (they visit Lille on February 6) . In the meantime, Mauricio Pochettino will have to do without him.
Could this be a welcome opportunity to try something different? The PSG manager could simply replace Neymar with Angel Di Maria, but he could also try to get more balance in his squad and play 3-5-2 now that Sergio Ramos is back, with Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi – number one. Strikers No. 3 and No. 1 respectively in ESPN’s FC 100 for 2021 – Ahead. Or maybe, even 4-4-2, with the diamond midfield and Messi behind Mbappe and Mauro Icardi, or the 4-4-2 flat with Messi up front with the French superstar.
There are so many options for Pochettino and PSG that Neymar is now forced to watch from the stands and see how his team functions without him. No doubt Neymar will be missed. Unfortunately his team is used to it.