Paris Saint-Germain coach Unai Emery said on Saturday he wants to keep his top players to give superstar signing Neymar competition for a starting berth in the team.
Brazilian Neymar was introduced to fans before kick-off at the Parc des Princes in Paris ahead of PSG’s 2-0 win over newly-promoted Amiens in their opening match of the 2017/18 season.
His new team-mates dominated throughout as South Americans Edinson Cavani and Javier Pastore scored the goals.
Pastore is one of the players whose place in the team is under threat from 222-million-euro ($264m) signing Neymar, but rather than think of selling off attacking talent to balance the books, Emery wants the likes of Argentine Angel Di Maria and German Julian Draxler to stay and push Neymar for a starting berth.
“We need competition for Neymar. We need players who will give competition for Neymar’s position,” said Emery.
“Draxler can play on the left, right and in the middle. Pastore can play on the left, right and in the middle.”
Emery refused to comment on whether some players would have to be sold to comply with UEFA’s financial fair play rules as the mammoth outlay to sign Neymar from Barcelona will surely put a strain on PSG’s finances.
Emery prefered to focus on what the signing of Neymar brings to the team in terms of competitiveness.
“The signing of players like Neymar, but also the work done on the academy shows the work we’re doing to improve the club,” he said.
“Everything the club does after discussions with me is because we think it’s better. Everything we’re going to do (including possible sales) is good.”
– ‘Everything’s positive’ –
Despite some in the football world criticising PSG for opening a blank chequebook to sign star players — Neymar’s fee was more than double the previous world record 105 million euros Manchester United paid Juventus for Paul Pogba — Emery said it was good for the club and French football.
“Everything’s positive. The PSG fans’ enthusiasm for the situation, football here in Paris and France — for everyone it’s good.
“It’s given the team a bigger plus. Now, with a player like that, we have to see if we can improve and develop together.”
Some say PSG’s wealth destroys competition in France because no other team has a comparable budget.
But Amiens coach Christophe Pelissier disagreed.
“When you see the quality of the team and the full stadium — the fans come because of the stars, it creates interest,” said Pelissier.
“Stars can only improve the league and push players to be better. I’s also a present for us. I would have liked Neymar to play.
“We knew we were up against a great team. Whether it was Di Maria or Pastore, why not have Neymar as well? I hope he’ll be there when we play them at home.”
Red tape prevented Neymar from playing as his international transfer certificate wasn’t lodged in time with the French League.
With a reported salary of around 45 million euros before tax, Neymar’s status could be unsettling for those players set to be overshadowed by him.
But young centre-back Presnel Kimpembe insisted his arrival was good for the group.
“The atmosphere stays the same. We know that Neymar is one of the best players in the world,” said the 21-year-old, a product of the club’s youth system.
“It’s up to us to make the most of his qualities both on and off the pitch.”