Neymar Jr, a man in the spotlight
Traditionally, a league match in the middle of August usually has less interest than games at other times of the year, because we're just at the start of the championship and it's the middle of summer. That was before Neymar Jr arrived on 13 August, and turned all that on its head. From north to south, east to west, from the Copacabana to the banks of the Seine in Paris, football fans the world over will put their summers on hold for 90 minutes.
Record crowd, passion: Brittany surfs on the 'Ney' wave
For just one night, Guingamp and its 7000 inhabitants will be the centre of the football universe. That's what the Neymar Jr effect is! When he arrives at the Roudourou around 19:30CEST, the Paris newboy knows he'll be the absolute centre of attention right through to and beyond the final whistle. No doubt the crowd — some 18,363 lucky souls, a Guingamp record — will contain a flurry of banners asking for his shirt. The fervour has caught on in Brittany where the hashtag #NeymarAuVillage (Neymar in the village) has gone viral on social media in recent days.
It will be a first football test too with Guingamp statistically not a happy hunting ground. Paris have lost there on two of their last three visits, and in all competitions, the Bretons have the edge (5 wins, 5 draws, 3 defeats for the hosts). Their Week 1 win over Metz (3-1) suggests they will be more than just the supporting cast.
Fourteen years after Ronnie, Neymar Jr will headline the show
Destiny has a way of nodding cutely to the past. It was on the same pitch in 2003 that Ronaldinho beat half of the opposition team to score a legendary goal. If Neymar Jr needed any inspiration 14 years later…That day, 'Ronnie' left Ronan Le Crom helpless. The goalkeeper would later move to Paris, and Guingamp's current coach Antoine Kombouaré and Jordan Ikoko also have a past with the capital club. "It's the first time in my career I'll come up against a world-class player," said Ikoko, a Paris youth academy product.
That world-class player has been preparing for his big evening all week long at the Ooredoo Training Centre in Saint-Germain-en-Laye. The leading scorer in the International Champions Cup in his former club's colours (3 goals), Neymar Jr has a habit of starting with a bang: in 2010, he scored a header on his Brazil debut against the USA (2-0). Guingamp will be the launchpad for another incredible chapter in his career. Three, two, one…Neymar Jr in Paris, LIFT OFF!!