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Paris Saint-Germain coach Christophe Galtier hailed Brazilian star Neymar as an artist as he refused to take credit for the striker’s scintillating start to the season.
The 30-year-old has scored 10 goals in nine games in all competitions and has also laid on the pass leading to a goal on seven occasions.
Ahead of Wednesday night’s Group H Champions League game at Maccabi Haifa, Galtier said Neymar’s renaissance was due to a period of self-reflection during the summer.
“Neymar has had a realisation in relation to last season when he didn’t perform as well, when he was less involved,” said Galtier.
“It would be facile to suggest that his good start to the season is only down to me and my staff.
“He arrived back on time, in great shape, and had worked well beforehand. He’s an artist, and when he’s on form, you can see that.”
Neymar scored twice in the 4-0 win over Nantes in the French Super Cup. He has netted eight of PSG’s 25 goals in their seven Ligue 1 games.
The defending champions – who have 19 points – lead the table on goal difference ahead of Marseille.
In the Champions League, Benfica set the pace by the same token following their 2-0 win over Maccabi Haifa last Tuesday.
PSG were ultimately fortunate on the same night to survive Juventus’s late rally to win 2-1 at the Parc des Princes.
Kylian Mbappé’s first goal – set up by Neymar’s scooped pass over two defenders – highlighted the player’s vision and technique.
Galtier, who took over from Mauricio Pochettino, also praised Neymar’s grit.
“He’s someone who works a huge amount for the team going forward, but also in trying to win the ball back.”
Question marks were raised over Neymar’s future as soon as Galtier was installed as PSG boss.
The 55-year-old Frenchman known for his rugged approach to discipline sanctified the team ethic during his first press conference as boss.
“No player will be above the club,” he insisted. “It will be about taking their talents and using them as a strength.
“But if there are players who are not in that frame of mind, then it will be dealt with internally and if necessary, they will be left out.”
That edict seemed at odds with Neymar’s free-rolling approach since signing for PSG in 2017 for a record fee of 222 million euros.
Domestic titles and Coupe de France trophies have piled up since his arrival but even with star forwards such as Mbappé, Angel Di Maria and Lionel Messi, PSG have failed to capture the Champions League.
Last season, a 20-minute three-goal meltdown at Real Madrid during the last-16 effectively sealed Pochettino’s fate.
“I have been talking to my team about the quality of our opponents and the intensity that there’s likely to be in the game,” said Galtier.
“My players are all focused on what they have to do in this kind of game. We’re going to face a difficult opponent.”
PSG will go into the game at the Sammy Ofer Stadium without defensive stalwart Presnel Kimpembe who has been ruled out for six weeks with an injury to the hamstring in his left leg.
Either Danilo or Nordi Mukiele will step in for the 27-year-old France international.
In the other Group H game, Juventus will host Benfica at the Allianz Stadium in Turin.
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