New Paris Saint-Germain coach Thomas Tuchel insisted that Neymar is “an artist” and admitted that the world’s most expensive player will need “special treatment” as he looked forward to starting his new role.
Tuchel was unveiled to the media at the Parc des Princes on Sunday evening, after his appointment on a two-year deal was confirmed last week.
He will officially begin his new job in time for the start of pre-season training in July as he replaces Unai Emery, but the German has already met with Neymar.
“I met him last Sunday and it was a very good meeting. He’s an artist, an exceptional player, one of the best in the world,” said Tuchel, who was previously in charge at Borussia Dortmund but left a year ago and had been a free agent since.
“Artists are special players, they need special treatment, it’s common sense.”
Neymar joined PSG last August from Barcelona for a world-record fee of 222 million euros ($264 million).
He won the French player of the year prize despite a foot injury meaning he has not featured for his club since the end of February.
There has been constant speculation that the 26-year-old’s stay in Paris could be a short one, with Real Madrid linked to a move for the Brazilian star.
But PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi has vehemently denied any suggestion that Neymar will depart after just one year in Ligue 1.
Tuchel added: “I met a very friendly, very open guy for the first time. We started talking about soccer and I saw a smile on his face and that is what I want to see.
“If we find a way to build a structure around him, so he can show all his talent on the pitch, I think we have a key player to win our games.”
– ‘No demands’ –
Tuchel spoke largely in impeccable English, although he did make an attempt to speak French, a language in which his predecessor Emery regularly struggled to get his message across.
The new coach was reluctant to answer a question about Gianluigi Buffon, amid speculation that the veteran Italian goalkeeper could be Paris-bound after finishing his distinguished career with Juventus on Saturday.
“First of all we have to say I cannot imagine a Juventus without Buffon, but it is happening,” said Tuchel.
He is set to inherit his fellow German Kevin Trapp as well as Alphonse Areola, who indicated in an interview with Le Parisien this weekend that he could seek to leave the club if his position as first-choice ‘keeper were jeopardised.
“I don’t know him personally but we will see what happens,” added Tuchel of Buffon.
“Right now we have two goalkeepers and we have to be patient, but first of all I personally have to adapt to there being no Buffon in the Italian team or in goal for Juventus.”
Tuchel also insisted that he would settle for working with the squad currently in place, with PSG fresh from winning a domestic treble.
“If the transfer window closes now I am a happy person. I see the team has a lot of talent.
“I have no demands. First of all I trust the players and the people who built this team.”
The threat of sanctions for potential breaches of UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules means PSG’s room for manoeuvre in the transfer market could be limited, even if Al-Khelaifi told Sunday’s edition of L’Equipe that any punishment would be “surprising, abnormal and scandalous”.