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Thus Begins The Thrilling, Terrifying Neymar-Mbappé-Cavani Era

Photo credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty

Today marked Paris Saint-Germain’s official unveiling of what should prove to be a legendary (and is already legendarily expensive) forward line of Neymar (€222 million), Kylian Mbappé (€180 million), and Edinson Cavani (€63 million). And while the team naturally doesn’t have the tactical gears ticking in perfect synchronization yet, nor was this match against Metz as one-sided as you might surmise just from the scoreline, today’s performance nevertheless was proof of something everyone knew when Qatar dumped all that dirty money of theirs in the transfer market to assemble their super-squad: this team is going to be fucking ridiculous.

On paper, PSG’s starting lineup was a little lopsided.


Trotting out in what was essentially a 4-2-2-2 with four out-and-out attackers probably isn’t what will bring the Parisians the Champions League glory they’re after, and the true test of this season will be manager Unai Emery finding a system that allows his attacking triumvirate the space and freedom they require to be at their best while at the same time protecting the team defensively. In league play, however, PSG should be so outrageously overpowering in every area of the pitch that lopsidedness shouldn’t really matter. Thus they can run out Neymar and Mbappé and Cavani and Julian Draxler, give those four players minimal defensive duties, and still rend their opponents into tiny pieces of confetti simply off the strength of their attacking might.

We saw a glimpse of what a full-throttle PSG might look like when the Big Three really get cooking, and it was sublime. Each member of the CNM scored today, with Cavani nabbing two goals, and each of them could easily have padded their stats even more. The game’s opener was indicative of the match as a whole. Neymar, after picking up the ball in a deeper central position, lifted his head, spotted both Mbappé and Cavani sprinting through the heart of Metz’s back line, and slid through a pass that in effect sent both strikers clear through on goal. Either Cavani or Mbappé could’ve scored, and Neymar’s pass was probably intended for Mbappé in the first place, but it just so happened to be Cavani who latched onto it and pumped it into the net:

Mbappé was next to get on the scoresheet, almost assisting himself after an attempted chip pass for an onrushing Neymar was knocked away from its destination, only for the French teen to run onto the ball and thump it home himself:


(That play, like many others in the match, demonstrated just what an unreal talent Mbappé is. Yes, he’s a goalscorer primarily, and it’s that ruthless, maniacally goal-hungry side of his game that made him worth €180 million, but he’s also extremely well-rounded. He’s willing and able to make something happen from any area of the pitch, either running away from or toward the ball, with deft passes as well as stinging shots. This kid is going to be incredible.)

Neymar’s goal—his fourth in four Ligue 1 matches, which along with his four assists has him on an astounding production pace—was all thanks to his magical right foot:


Again, today’s match wasn’t easy, and in many ways it wasn’t indicative of the things PSG will need to do in order to get the best out of the group they have. At halftime the game was tied at 1-1; Metz should’ve gone ahead right after the break when a PSG defensive lapse gave one of Metz’s strikers a wide-open net that he somehow couldn’t flip the ball into; PSG really didn’t explode offensively until Metz went down a player thanks to a dubious red card; this kind of defensively lax 4-2-2-2 is not going to cut it during the Champions League matches that will define the season; Neymar was forced to play a little deeper than he ideally would, and who knows if he’ll be happy serving primarily as a playmaker for the two strikers ahead of him rather than racking up goals and assists of his own.

But what PSG did demonstrate today is that their attackers are eager to work, unselfish, complimentary, and capable of absolutely terrorizing the kinds of overmatched opponents that will make up the vast majority of the club’s domestic campaign. Today was only the start, and that PSG can and will have to so much room to grow and adapt from here on out goes to show just how obscene the team can be in the future.

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