‘Neymar was the leader at PSG, not me’ – Unai Emery

The Spanish boss believes Neymar only left Barcelona for Paris last summer to assume such a role because Lionel Messi was in charge at the Nou Camp.

‘I know when I’m the main person responsible, and when I’m not,’ Emery told France Football News.

‘It’s a process that a coach has to live with and internalise, and that he assimilates with time and experience. In every club, you have to know what your role is and what role you have vis-a-vis the rest of the group.

‘I am of the opinion that PSG’s leader is Neymar. Or that he is currently becoming it. Neymar came to PSG to be the leader, to go through this process to someday become the best in the world. At Manchester City, Pep is in charge. At PSG, Neymar has to be.’

Emery, who has previously managed Sevilla, Spartak Moscow and Valencia, had never been faced with handling a real superstar until Neymar walked through the door at the Parc des Princes.

The Spaniard will be the first to admit he was out of his comfort zone. Emery has a history of overbearing man-management and the player-coach relationship between the pair was never going to run smoothly.

They got into a training ground altercation last year after Neymar had stolen penalty duties off of Edinson Cavani – something Emery privately felt went against all he embodied.

But Neymar was made the kingmaker and even picked his games in the domestic calendar so he could rest before Champions League football and Brazil internationals.

He was above Emery in the pecking order and beyond his reproach. It went against Emery’s morality, but the 46-year-old admitted it forced him to alter – something that did not go unnoticed.

‘A few months ago, a PSG player said to me, “Mister, this year you have changed.”‘ Emery added. ‘It was obvious. I couldn’t be the same coach with and without Neymar. We went through a period of adaptation with the player.

‘It was not instinctive, because we have to really get to know one another. Coaching Messi, Ronaldo or Neymar is not easy.

‘They are the best in the world so that is a lot to take in. You have to adapt yourself to them. Look at Guardiola at City. He is lucky because he doesn’t have a major figure like that to be faced with.

‘There are big players who become one when it really matters. And when it comes to taking radical decisions, Pep took them. For example, by getting rid of Deco, Ronaldinho, or Ibrahimovic when the latter had issues with Messi. By doing this, he avoided serious problems.’

Despite Emery’s efforts, his PSG tenure – as it was always going to after he had challenged Neymar – came to a sudden conclusion at the end of the season, even though he had delivered the domestic treble.

Now with the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Mesut Ozil to contend with at Arsenal, Emery may look back at his experience at PSG as a blessing in disguise.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *