Once again, Neymar reminds us why he’s football’s most fun joker

It was Oscar Wilde who once said, “There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about and that’s not being talked about.” It’s not hard to imagine Neymar living his life by this mantra. 

It is well documented that Neymar is one of football’s biggest marmite characters. For every supporter who sees a generational talent and poster boy for modern Brazil, there are those who look upon Neymar as a Bolsonaro-supporting dickhead with an ego the size of the Amazon.

However, what cannot be denied by anybody is that Neymar is an outrageously talented footballer, capable of producing moments of skill that are almost pornographic in nature. On Sunday, Reims became the latest opponents to act as test dummy for Neymar’s magic box of tricks.

Of course, it is very Paris Saint Germain – a team whose attitude to humility makes Boris Johnson look bashful – to toy with their inferior opponents once the game was tied up. They are not known as football’s equivalent to the Harlem Globetrotters for no reason, and no player better encapsulates their attitude than Neymar.

His fun started early in the 2-0 win over Reims. Collecting the ball deep in the opposition half, Neymar noticed striker Tasos Donis tentatively approach him from the corner of his eye. With a stepover so contemptuous in gesture it bought to mind a teenager being asked to clean the microwave by their parents, the Brazilian changed direction and bore down upon goal, leaving Donis trailing helplessly in his wake.

Taking another defender out of the game with a deft feint, Neymar unleashed a piercing through ball that Mauro Icardi failed to capitalise upon. No matter: Neymar was clearly in the mood.

Later in the half, Neymar found himself on the left flank and the opportunity to drive at the Reims defence. He took it. Teasing two defenders, he casually slipped between them, nutmegging Thomas Fouket for good measure. Having taken the bait good and proper, it was possible to pinpoint the exact moment the Belgian’s spirit broke in true Ralph Wiggum style.

Proceeding to ignore the despairing lunge of a third defender, the Brazil magician attempted to wrap the ball around goalkeeper Predrag Rajikovic. Only the acuteness of the angle denied Neymar a sensational goal, the ball merely shaving the upright before going wide.

It was a move that justified all the hype surrounding the player.

The real showstopper was still to come. By this point, PSG had established a comfortable 2-0 lead and were looking to wind down the clock.

Like all true mavericks, Neymar interpreted these instructions in his own unique way. Taking a pass from Kylian Mbappe, Neymar thought it appropriate to bust out a double drag-back – in essence, just because he could.

It is perhaps not surprising that the move ended with a frustrated defender lashing an arm into his midriff, which Neymar reacted to with typical understatement.

In a way, the skill personified the outside perception of PSG as an elaborate circus act, with Neymar acting as court jester.

To an extent, this is true – it is hard to imagine managers such as Jurgen Klopp indulging such behaviour. However, in an age where football is discussed with the seriousness of pundits tasked on solving the Balkan question, Neymar’s dedication to piss-taking through his stupendous skillset is something to put a smile on the weariest of faces.

Football is supposed to be fun. Putting aside the professional pride of a collection of French defenders, there is perhaps no player in world football who exemplifies this mantra better than Neymar.

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