Neymar Jr: 'Very motivated'
In an exclusive interview with PSG.FR, the Paris Saint-Germain no. 10 gave his thoughts on the first half of the season, his return from injury and the thrilling culmination of the UEFA Champions League group stage, which saw the capital club finish in top of their group.
How has it been being back in Paris after an injury absence of several months and then the World Cup?
"Coming back and getting to play alongside and be with your teammates is always great. It was a pretty sad situation though, with my injury and then our defeat at the World Cup, but you need to draw inspiration from such episodes and come back to focus on new objectives. I think it was a tough start to the season but it was very important and the work we did was excellent. Now I feel back to 100%. It was tough to adapt to my return to competition and playing matches after my injury and the operation. But now I feel really good."
Can you explain to us what your new position is in the team's formation?
"I think it's a position with more freedom; I have the freedom to be closer to the forwards, but at the same time it allows me to fulfill the role I've always had, so I feel great, and I'm happy and very motivated to play in this position. But I think I would be happy to play wherever he [coach Thomas Tuchel] asks me to play."
Does this freedom give you more space to be creative and really express yourself?
"I think that for all players at this level, having this kind of freedom is a very good thing, because at any moment we can spark an attack that can decide a match and help the team. That's why I'm very happy to have this freedom, but I know what I have to do to deserve it - I need to provide that spark so my team can win the match."
What is Tuchel like as a person?
"He's a very calm person but he is also demanding; he's always looking for the best thing for the team and for each player. He is a warm-hearted guy and a good person, but he also knows how to let you have it when necessary [laughs]."
Your understanding with Kylian and Cavani seems to be getting better and better…
"We're very happy that our link-up play is getting better and better in each match; we're getting to know each other better as time goes by. And that's our objective: that everyone be happy to provide assists for the others to score, so that everyone ends the match happy - even though the most important thing is, of course, to win the match."
What has been the most important match so far this season?
"I think it was when we played at home to Liverpool. It was the most important in terms of the team's spirit - we really pulled together to get the result. We knew it would be a huge match, as a lot was up in the air for us as we were going through a difficult period. But our team managed to get past all of that to play well and win the match. That was real boost for us and I think it will hold us in good stead for the rest of the season."
After Liverpool, how was the match in Belgrade? Everything was on the line once again…
"Yes, there was a chance we could be eliminated. Luckily I was able to recover from injury faster than expected and I was able to play. I wasn't at 100%, everyone knew that, but it was a calculated risk that I took at that moment in order to help my team however I could by being out there on the pitch and fighting hard for the result. We managed to play a great game and we claimed a huge victory."
Before the season is out, there will be a huge clash with Manchester United. What did you think when you were drawn against them?
"I was happy; they will be two great matches between two great sides. We know the quality that Manchester United have, and we know that their players have a winning mentality. The coach has changed, and it will be a different playing style; they're in the process of changing things up, but we know the quality they have. I love the big matches and it's always a pleasure to play in them. I'm very happy to be taking on Manchester United."