A 4-1 dispatching of Metz gave Paris Saint-Germain the perfect start to the MCN era.
Taking apart Celtic 5-0 in Glasgow, signalled that all was well between Neymar, Kylian Mbappé and Edinson Cavani, but this weekend, the first signs of cracks are already beginning to appear.
PSG dominated possession against Lyon on Sunday night, but the away side matched their five shots on target from 12 attempts compared to the home side’s 14.
It wasn’t a vintage night for the Ligue 1 leaders; they needed two own goals to get past OL and it was a performance which lacked drive, intensity and looked sluggish throughout.
Things turned sour when, on two occasions, Neymar and Cavani clashed, first over a free-kick, and then a penalty.
Moving from Barcelona for £196million, the Brazilian has instantly become PSG’s leader, but his Uruguayan team-mate isn’t ready to give all his power away just yet.
Seven of Cavani’s goals in Ligue 1 last term were penalties and the 30-year-old would have gone in to the new campaign believing he would keep his place as the designated taker.
Cavani, during the 3-0 win over Saint-Etienne, was asked by Neymar if the new signing could take the spot kick. He told him no and the striker tucked it away.
With the score just 1-0 on Sunday, PSG were awarded another penalty and the hierarchy at the Parc des Princes was brought into question once again.
Cavani wants to take a PSG free kick, but Dani Alves has the ball and he wants his BFF Neymar to take it 😭 pic.twitter.com/JZQzg6Teu4
— Goal News (@GoalNews) September 17, 2017
Tensions between the duo had already surfaced earlier in the game when Dani Alves took the ball out of Cavani's hands and gave it to Neymar to take a free-kick on the edge of the area.
Neymar:"I want to take the penalty!" Cavani: "do I look like Messi" .😂https://t.co/lRTghtMq8t
— 𝓒𝓱𝓮 ⍟ (@CheWisam) September 17, 2017
Before the spot-kick, the Brazilian was again told by Cavani that he should step back. This time Anthony Lopes got his fingertips to the ball and pushed it on to the crossbar.
Rather than take control of this situation, coach Unai Emery has told his superstars they need to work out the issue.
“I have told them to sort it out between themselves,”
“The penalties are to be struck by a few players, one is Cavani and the other is Neymar.
“It takes a gentleman's agreement on the pitch to take the penalties. Afterwards, we will arrange internally for the penalties, because I think both are able to score them, and I want the two to alternate in this exercise.
“If there is no agreement, I will decide. I do not want it to be a problem for us.”
If PSG are to find success on all levels, it is up to the coach to balance the egos in his squad. Before being sacked, this is something Laurent Blanc failed to do.
The Frenchman lost control to Zlatan Ibrahimović, Thiago Silva and Thiago Motta and they took over the dressing room.
Other coaches, like Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid and Pep Guardiola at Barça, managed this well, but there was always an obvious pecking order. Cristiano Ronaldo is the man at the Bernabeu and Lionel Messi will always be handed the keys to the Catalan city.
At PSG, things, for the first time, have become muddled. Cavani played second fiddle to Zlatan when the Swede called Paris home, but last season he was the main man and backed that up with 35 league goals.
However, now, with not only Neymar’s arrival, but Mbappé’s emergence, El Matador could become the No. 3 forward in the French capital.
It sounds unthinkable, but this is something Cavani should embrace, and could see him become an even deadlier option for the Parisians.
L’Equipe, after publishing their front page with ‘Le Clash” reported that the issues between the two players extended off the pitch when it was suggested that the Uruguayan told Neymar that he didn’t appreciate his attitude.
— Tom Williams (@tomwfootball) September 19, 2017
That upset the Brazilian and it took the intervention of his compatriot and captain, Thiago Silva, to step up and make sure the confrontation didn't become physical.
Whether it’s true or not, Cavani, speaking to Gol de Medianoche de Radio Universal, per , insists that the issues don't exist:
“These things are created. I don't know why these stories are created. The truth is that these are normal things; things that happen in football.
“I learned of the story just now talking with my brother, about people saying that Cavani won't let anyone take penalties and that there's a problem with Neymar. The truth is that there's no problem.
“He [Neymar] has just arrived and like I said from the off we are keen for him to adapt in the best way possible. I think that's been proven because you can see he is adapting quickly.”
It's hard to believe that no disagreement happened after what was witnessed on the pitch, but it’s Cavani that needs to show leadership here and it’s the 30-year-old that could come off best out of PSG’s forwards.
When he was left in Paris after Zlatan’s departure, it became his team and the spotlight fell on the former Napoli forward. Every chance, every attempt and every miss was analysed and scrutinised.
He does have a history of making the easy chances look difficult, but as we saw from his diving header against Celtic, he can also finish off the more challenging opportunities.
With Neymar and Mbappé in the team, Cavani is set to benefit in two areas.
First, the pace, movement and danger that the 18-year-old brings gives defenders a whole new headache to deal with. Too often while watching Monaco you'd wonder why Radamel Falcao was left alone in the penalty area. It was due to the threat of Mbappé.
Teams must deal with him, but because he is so powerful and fast, they overcompensated and ended up leaving the Colombian No.9 unmarked.
Cavani can use this to his advantage. The Uruguayan hit-man has probably the best penalty box movement of any striker in the modern game.
With Neymar coming off the flanks, Mbappé running in behind, not to mention the threat of Adrien Rabiot from deep, there is enough going on that Cavani can ghost in behind defenders unnoticed, helping him surpass his total of 35 league goals from last season.
Second of all, he doesn’t need to be the leader of this team. Neymar joined for a world record fee, more than three times what the Parisians paid to bring Cavani to the French capital.
He could let this become Neymar’s team, put the pressure on the Brazilian, who is the one tasked with leading them to Champions League glory.
If it fails, fingers will be pointed at him and President Nasser Al-Khelaifi, not Cavani.
That allows the striker to do the one thing that he does better than anyone in Paris. Score goals.
If it's necessary to let Neymar take penalties, fine, on his head be it. But Cavani will finish the season with more goals than the Brazilian and with less pressure.
It’s the ideal situation for any penalty-box predator and it could help Cavani record his best-ever season in front of goal.
Keeping the peace is the most important thing. Continue to squabble and PSG’s title and Champions League chances will be de-railed. Should he accept his new role, Cavani will become more powerful than he could ever have imagined.