With Cristiano Ronaldo on one side and Neymar on the other, Wednesday’s heavyweight Champions League titanic clash between Los Blancos and The Parisians sees two of football’s biggest global superstar collide.
Ronaldo, the present world player of the year, has rediscovered something like his best form exactly at the perfect time for the Spanish giants.
While the Ligue 1 side are putting their expectations in Neymar, the world’s most costly player and a prospective Ballon d’Or winner without bounds, as they pursue the European glory that has up to this point evaded them.
Neymar left Camp Nou for Parc des Princes to step out of Lionel Messi’s shadow. However, precisely seven years Ronaldo’s lesser, he is as of now being discussed in the Spanish capital as a conceivable successor to the Portuguese star.
Ronaldo back to his best?
So far Neymar’s course to the Ballon d’Or has been hindered by the Messi-Ronaldo duopoly – they have won the prize five times each over in the last decade.
On the off chance that Neymar inspires PSG to triumph in this tie, and afterwards on to grandness in the final in May, he will stand a decent possibility of ending Messi-Ronaldo domination.
Ronaldo may have turned 33 last Monday, but he is a long way from wrapping up.
He scored only four times in Real’s first 18 La Liga games, his slow start to the season following a summer eclipsed by allegations of tax evasion. But a weekend hat-trick in a 5-2 win over Real Sociedad took him to seven goals in his last four league outings.
Suddenly, ‘CR7’ now has 23 goals in all competitions this season, more than at the same stage a year ago.
“I am always looking to perform at the highest level and sometimes things don’t work out the way we would like,” Ronaldo told realmadrid.com.
He may be beginning his decline, but there is life in him yet. And Ronaldo also lives for the Champions League, a competition he has won four times before.
The Portuguese scored nine times in this season’s group stage and his next goal will be his 100th in the competition for Real.
Neymar: Some downs, mostly ups –
Neymar’s first six months in France have at times been overshadowed by reports of an uneasy relationship with Edinson Cavani, the other idol at PSG and the club’s all-time record goal-scorer. Doubts are still raised about how much the French scene motivates him, too.
Last week he sat out a French Cup tie at Sochaux, just 48 hours after hosting a lavish party for his 26th birthday near Paris’ Place Vendome.
But Neymar can almost do and say what he wants, as long as his performances on the field satisfy PSG’s Qatari owners after they invested a world-record 222 million euros ($264 million) to sign him. And he is delivering on the pitch, scoring a goal a game in a Paris shirt.
“We have lots of great players, but our leader on the pitch is Neymar,” said PSG coach Unai Emery recently.
One day in Madrid? –
In France, persistent speculation about a potential Real bid to sign Neymar, possibly as early as this year, has been seen as an attempt to unsettle PSG ahead of this tie.
“Would Neymar fit at Real Madrid? He would fit, for sure,” Real’s Marcelo, a Brazil team-mate of Neymar, told Brazilian channel Esporte Interativo.
“I think Neymar will one day play for Real Madrid.”
PSG signed Neymar after he masterminded Barcelona’s incredible 6-1 win when the teams met in the Champions League last season.
It is not too big a stretch to imagine Real doing something similar should Neymar oversee their downfall.
He will surely not be at PSG forever, and Madrid president Florentino Perez cannot wait too much longer to sign another global superstar and a successor to Ronaldo.
“I hope Neymar will stay. He still has a lot of things to achieve with us,” PSG skipper Thiago Silva told Canal+.
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