STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Champions League: Is it time to sympathize with PSG's Neymar?

The memes of Neymar ...

Posted: Nov 8, 2018 11:13 AM
Updated: Nov 8, 2018 11:13 AM

The memes of Neymar rolling in agony along high streets and motorways remain one of the enduring memories of a thrilling World Cup in Russia.

Spectacular goals and knee-knocking finishes admittedly made the footballing world smile during the summer, but so too did the #neymarchallenge on social media as fans, multinationals and even Portugal's 911 service mocked the Brazilian superstar's theatrics on the pitch.

Continents and regions

Europe

Football (Soccer)

France

Ligue 1

Neymar

Paris Saint-Germain FC

Soccer events

Sports and recreation

Sports events

Sports figures

Sports organizations and teams

UEFA Champions League

Western Europe

According to Swiss broadcaster RTS, the world's most expensive player spent 14 minutes on the floor during football's most celebrated tournament. Many of those minutes would have been spent rolling around in apparent agony before getting back on his feet again to continue with the dribbles, flicks and no-look passes.

But is Neymar more sinned against than sinning? Should the Paris Saint-Germain forward receive more protection from referees and less ridicule from the masses?

According to beIN Sports data, during the opening rounds of this season's Champions League, the forward has been awarded 20 fouls -- 14 more than his teenage teammate Kylian Mbappe, who is equally adept at bamboozling defenders with trickery and pace, and 16 more than Liverpool's Mo Salah over the same number of games.

READ: Neymar -- ridiculed for his theatrics

Barcelona's Lionel Messi, who has played just twice in the Champions League this season, has won four fouls while Juventus' Cristiano Ronaldo has won seven over three games.

If all players are treated equally, it is a striking statistic that Neymar has won considerably more fouls in Europe's elite competition than the world's other best forwards.

Bought by the French champions in 2017 for $263 million, Neymar cut a frustrated figure in Italy Tuesday as Napoli fought back to draw 1-1 against a PSG side third in a group that also includes last season's finalist Liverpool. There is still much to do if the Parisians are to progress to the knockout stages.

Undoubtedly, a man of Neymar's talents, a player who can change a game with a moment of brilliance, is a marked man.

It would be foolish for defenses to leave such a player to roam unattended. A sumptuous pass over Napoli's defense to Mbappe early in first half at the Stadio San Paolo illustrated the danger Neymar's creativity alone poses to opponents. He is also lethal in front of goal, scoring three in the opening four group games.

Napoli wisely, though Neymar himself would probably say unfairly, paid close attention to the 26-year-old. Towards the end of the match, Neymar -- booked in stoppage time for dissent -- could be seen shouting at referee Bjorn Kuipers and appeared to be held back by Mbappe after taking issue with one of the referee's decisions.

The Brazilian would later accuse the Dutchman of saying something "disrespectful" to him during the match. "On the pitch, we are asked to show respect towards the referees. We should get the same in return," he told reporters afterwards.

There were those on social media who sympathized with the Brazilian. "He often frustrates me by going down too easy (imo) -- but you can see why he does on a night like this when he tries to stay on his feet and gets absolutely nothing," tweeted journalist Robin Bairner.

In another tweet, Barnier said: "Frustrating night for #Neymar. He's been on the end of numerous niggling fouls, several not given, and yet he's been booked for dissent."

Perhaps some of Neymar's problems are of his own making. Against Switzerland at the World Cup, he was fouled 10 times -- the most by one player in a game since Alan Shearer in 1998 -- but his response to such tactics was to fall, many would say, too easily to the ground.

Such actions have consequences, and shapes a player's reputation.

"Did you watch the World Cup?" USA defender Deandre Yedlin apparently told a referee after Neymar fell following a tackle from the American during a recent international match.

Visit cnn.com/sport for more news and videos

But perhaps the time has come to empathize with the Brazilian, an artist having to deal with snarling opponents attempting to stop him from lighting up a pitch with his brushstrokes.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 34622

Reported Deaths: 1215
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds282449
DeSoto186519
Madison141936
Jones118549
Harrison109615
Rankin106315
Neshoba103976
Forrest97243
Lauderdale95481
Scott80915
Jackson74418
Washington70010
Copiah64215
Leake62120
Lee60022
Oktibbeha58928
Holmes57941
Warren57720
Grenada5698
Wayne56018
Yazoo5486
Lowndes53613
Leflore52856
Lamar5227
Lincoln51935
Pike48820
Sunflower4708
Lafayette4644
Monroe43935
Panola4326
Covington4295
Bolivar39418
Simpson3843
Attala38324
Newton36710
Adams34719
Pontotoc3396
Tate33313
Marion32412
Claiborne30011
Winston29611
Chickasaw29319
Pearl River28132
Noxubee2778
Marshall2763
Jasper2716
Clay25611
Walthall2497
Union24611
Smith23712
Coahoma2196
Clarke21725
Lawrence2022
Yalobusha2028
Kemper18314
Tallahatchie1784
Carroll17411
Humphreys16110
Calhoun1605
Montgomery1513
Itawamba1458
Tippah14411
Hancock14113
Webster13411
Jefferson1223
Tunica1213
Jefferson Davis1184
Prentiss1173
George1123
Greene11210
Amite1083
Quitman971
Tishomingo971
Wilkinson969
Alcorn942
Perry794
Choctaw754
Stone732
Franklin542
Sharkey470
Benton440
Issaquena101
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 49892

Reported Deaths: 1077
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson6219167
Mobile4625138
Montgomery4397111
Tuscaloosa258652
Madison19839
Marshall190411
Shelby155724
Lee153537
Morgan12415
Baldwin117011
Walker105631
Elmore100721
Dallas9789
Franklin92816
Etowah91914
DeKalb8647
Russell6650
Chambers66427
Autauga66214
Butler64529
Tallapoosa62569
Unassigned61627
Limestone5963
Houston5616
Lauderdale5556
Cullman5546
St. Clair4842
Colbert4816
Lowndes48022
Escambia4688
Pike4675
Calhoun4565
Coffee4164
Covington40312
Jackson4022
Barbour3772
Bullock37610
Dale3721
Talladega3677
Hale34323
Marengo34211
Clarke3036
Wilcox2998
Chilton2952
Winston2925
Sumter28713
Blount2811
Marion26714
Pickens2626
Monroe2553
Randolph2489
Conecuh2278
Perry2242
Bibb2151
Macon2129
Choctaw20912
Greene1929
Henry1463
Washington1367
Crenshaw1263
Lawrence1210
Cherokee1157
Geneva950
Lamar871
Clay822
Fayette811
Coosa631
Cleburne421
Out of AL00
Tupelo
Clear
85° wxIcon
Hi: 94° Lo: 76°
Feels Like: 91°
Columbus
Clear
80° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 72°
Feels Like: 86°
Oxford
Clear
81° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 75°
Feels Like: 85°
Starkville
Clear
77° wxIcon
Hi: 92° Lo: 72°
Feels Like: 78°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather