TEL AVIV: Neymar scored twice with Lionel Messi also on target as Paris Saint-Germain thrashed Nantes 4-0 in the Champions Trophy in Tel Aviv on Sunday in new coach Christophe Galtier’s first match in charge.
After an underwhelming first season in French football, Messi struck 22 minutes into the traditional curtain-raiser, being played in Israel for the second year in a row. Neymar, whose future at the club has been the source of much speculation this summer, doubled the lead just before the break with a magnificent free-kick.
Sergio Ramos added a third and Neymar bagged his second late on from the penalty spot as PSG, the reigning Ligue 1 champions, eased to victory over last season’s French Cup winners. “It was a good match. There was a trophy on the line so we wanted to win it,” Neymar told Prime Video, drowning out rumours of his potential departure. “If Kylian (Mbappe), Leo and myself are happy, PSG will do well,” he added. “I hope this season all three of us will stay and it will go well.”
It is the ninth time in 10 seasons PSG have lifted the Champions Trophy. They lost 1-0 to Lille at the same venue a year ago. PSG begin their quest for a record 11th French league title away to Clermont on August 6.
Galtier became PSG’s seventh different manager since the Qatari takeover of 2011 when he was appointed on a two-year deal in early July as the replacement for Mauricio Pochettino. The club won a protracted battle with Real Madrid in May to convince Kylian Mbappe to stay, but Galtier was without the France star for his first official match due to suspension.
Pablo Sarabia, on loan at Sporting Lisbon last term, took Mbappe’s place in the attack alongside Messi and Neymar, while Portugal midfielder Vitinha made his debut following his arrival from Porto.
Achraf Hakimi forced Nantes goalkeeper Alban Lafont into an early stop and Sarabia went close before PSG captain Marquinhos headed against the crossbar. Gianluigi Donnarumma, confirmed as PSG’s first-choice goalkeeper ahead of Keylor Navas, turned away a Ludovic Blas effort, but Neymar and Messi soon combined to break the deadlock.
The Brazilian’s deflected pass rolled kindly towards Messi and the Argentine nonchalantly rounded Lafont to apply the finishing touch. Lafont denied Messi a second but was left powerless minutes later as Neymar whipped a 25-yard free-kick into the top corner.
Nantes coach Antoine Kombouare got the better of Galtier in the French Cup final three months ago but found his former club in unforgiving mood here. Ramos, who also endured a tough first year in Paris beset by injury, back-heeled home a third goal on 57 minutes after Lafont could only parry Sarabia’s low cross.
France defender Nordi Mukiele came on in the closing stages for his PSG debut after arriving from RB Leipzig this week on a five-year deal. And Neymar, having made no secret of his desire to remain at PSG, completed the rout with a penalty after Jean-Charles Castelletto was sent off for hauling him down inside the area.