Neymar has roared back to form for Paris Saint-Germain after accepting he fell short of his high standards last season, according to coach Christophe Galtier.
The Brazilian star has been a standout striker for PSG, scoring 10 goals and providing seven assists in eight starts and one substitute appearance so far.
He is already close to matching last season’s returns, scoring a modest 13 times and assisting eight goals in 28 games in 2021-22.
It was a return to Neymar from his best Barcelona days and PSG are enjoying the benefits.
“I think it would be disrespectful to think it’s just me and my technical staff,” Galtier said. “Neymar is aware that his performances last season were not that good.
“He has high goals. He got back fit at the start of pre-season. He worked very hard before that. My team and I decided to play him in the best position to be a performer.”
“When Neymar is in a good mental and physical state, that’s what he does and that’s how he performs. The key thing is to understand that as a coach, he’s a player who works extremely hard for the team. forward and in terms of winning the ball back.”
Galtier’s side face Maccabi Haifa on Wednesday in their second Champions League group game, having won against Juventus last week.
The teams have only met twice in European competition before, with both of those matches coming in the first round of the 1998-99 Cup Winners’ Cup. The side from Israel won 4-3 on aggregate but go into this second leg with few expecting to win against star-studded opposition.
Maccabi Haifa have lost each of their last seven Champions League matches, losing 10-0 on aggregate. Only one team in the history of the Champions League has lost eight times in a row without scoring each time, Dinamo Zagreb did it between November 2015 and December 2016.
For PSG, Kylian Mbappe has scored or assisted in each of his last nine Champions League games (8 goals, 4 assists). He has found the back of the net in each of his last five games, his longest scoring streak in the competition.
Apart from Mbappe and Neymar, PSG can also call up Lionel Messi, who will face Israeli competition for the first time in the Champions League. A goal in this game would make Messi the all-time leader in the number of different teams that one player has scored against in the Champions League. He is currently on par with Cristiano Ronaldo at 38 years old.
PSG are back in Israel barely six weeks after playing in the Trophee des Champions in Tel Aviv where they beat Nantes 4-0 with Messi and Neymar among the goals.
“Even though we had the support of the Israeli fans for the Trophee des Champions, this time we will play in a stadium that will stand behind his team,” Galtier said.
“It will be a heated atmosphere. As for the Israeli league, I believe that every team in Europe is difficult to play against. Everyone is trying to raise the bar and Israeli football has improved a lot with coaches who are well traveled and can take what they have seen elsewhere and they bring in foreign players who strengthen their teams.”
PSG are without injured defender Presnel Kimpembe and Galtier is weighing whether to stick with his 3-5-2 formation after losing such a key figure.
Missing top target Milan Škriniar in a transfer window that has seen Inter hold firm is increasingly looking like a major blow for the French side.
“We wanted an extra middle linebacker because it’s a crazy schedule right now,” Galtier said. “We were right about that. I understand that the president could not change Inter’s attitude and we will work with the team we have here.”
“I have some all-round players and we’ll see how it goes. Will we have to change the system? Maybe. We also have some very good young players who can be involved in the upcoming games. That’s why it was important for us.” and for [football advisor] Luis Campos to get a centre-back, but unfortunately we didn’t do it.”