Paris St Germain were plunged into fresh turmoil following their 2-1 Champions League defeat at Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday with Neymar criticizing the club for not giving him time to get his sharpness back after injury ahead of the last 16 tie.
The French champions, who have been knocked out at the same stage of Europe’s elite club competition for the past three seasons, looked unusually ponderous, with Neymar a pale shadow of his brilliant self despite scoring PSG’s only goal.
The Brazil forward was playing his first game in more than two weeks after being rested due to a minor rib injury and he thought the club had been overly cautious.
“It’s hard not to play for four games,” Neymar told reporters. “Unfortunately it was not my choice, it came from the club, the doctors, they’re the ones who made the decision, one that I did not like.
“We’ve had a lot of discussions on that. I wanted to play, I was feeling well but the club were afraid, and in the end I’m the one suffering.”
Coach Thomas Tuchel, who is likely to come under fire for not bringing on strikers Edison Cavani or Mauro Icardi in the final stages despite trailing, said Neymar “lacked rhythm and competitive action”.
Last week, PSG sports director Leonardo fumed at the “negativity” surrounding the club ahead of the tie. With Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, “two of the four best players in the world”, in their ranks, PSG should not fear anyone, he argued.
But while the pair combined for PSG’s goal on Tuesday they were off the pace for most of the game and ended up being outshone by Norwegian teen Erling Haaland, who netted a double to give Dortmund the advantage heading into the second leg in Paris on March 11.
The result also brought back memories of previous embarrassing exits for PSG, who have splashed out more than a billion euros on transfers since Qatar Sports Investment took over in 2011.
Last season they were eliminated by Manchester United when they lost the return leg 3-1 after winning 2-0 at Old Trafford, and in 2017 a humiliating 6-1 loss at the Nou Camp followed a resounding 4-0 home win against Barcelona.
Tuchel, who said they “played with too much fear,” has drawn criticism for his unexpected 3-4-3 system, though centre back Presnel Kimpembe said the coach was not at fault.
“The defeat has nothing to do with tactics,” said Kimpembe.
“We are the ones on the pitch.”