PARIS (AP) – After lapping up the adulation at the Parc des Princes for 20 minutes, Neymar whipped up fans into an even greater frenzy by removing his Paris Saint-Germain jersey and tossing it into the crowd.
A scramble ensued as Ultras fans in the Auteuil stand tried to grab the 155 euro ($183) shirt that clung briefly to the torso of the most expensive player in soccer history.
A replacement would not be required on Saturday.
The Brazil forward was only on the pitch to provide the pre-match entertainment before making way for his new teammates to get on with the serious business: opening PSG’s bid to regain the French title.
A routine 2-0 victory, against a sturdy but unenterprising Amiens side making its debut in the French top flight, lacked the fanfare of the pre-match festivities. Neymar, the remaining kit replaced by jeans and sweatshirt, played his part in the stands by leaping out of his seat to be filmed celebrating the goals from Edinson Cavani and Javier Pastore.
It will be at least another week before Neymar starts earning PSG back some of the 222 million euros ($262 million) spent acquiring him from Barcelona through performances on the pitch.
Neymar is now expected to make his debut on Aug. 13 against Guingamp.
“There is anticipation because of the football he plays and his will to show it to the world,” said defender Dani Alves, who was advised to join PSG last month by his Brazil teammate. “You take a giant step when you have a player of this level to play against the other teams. This team will take a quality leap forward.”
Neymar’s debut was delayed because the league did not receive the international transfer certificate before Friday night’s deadline despite the move from Barcelona seemingly being completed the previous day.
“The club did everything to have the player’s transfer ratified,” PSG coach Unai Emery said. “He prepared for the game with the group. We waited until the very end. I don’t know if Spain did everything, but PSG did all it could.”
Amiens is not the type of fixture that PSG requires a game-changing dynamo up front like Neymar. Those matches will come down the line once the Champions League starts in September and Neymar is tasked with helping PSG to win European soccer’s top prize for the first time.
“I’m happy to be here, I want to win many trophies with you,” Neymar said in Portuguese during a brief address to the crowd after arriving on the field surrounded by fireworks being set off. “I will need your support.”
There was just one phrase in French from the podium: “Paris est magique.”
The magic so far has been in the PSG stores across the French capital, with queues snaking down streets filled with fans eager to snap up replica kits. More than 10,000 Neymar jerseys were sold within a day, PSG said, but the majority of the revenue will go to Nike.
PSG is relying on the player it calls a “brand” to fund his own transfer by attracting sponsors and filing the trophy cabinet.
“The players and the dimension of the club are totally different now and it’s good for the club,” 30-year-old supporter David Tang said outside the stadium. “All the world knows now that is Paris is in competition with the big teams and we will be competitive with the others like Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid.”
And unlike at Barcelona, where Neymar was eclipsed by Lionel Messi throughout his four seasons, the 25-year-old Brazilian is the undoubted star in the French capital.
Even Amiens coach Christophe Pelissier was disappointed not to see Neymar in action.
“This can only make our championship more competitive,” Pelissier said. “We knew we were going to play against a tremendous team, so we wanted him on the pitch. Hopefully he will be there for the return match.”
Instead, the stadium had to savor Neymar’s 24-minute pre-match cameo.
After briefly juggling the ball on the podium, Neymar embarked on a lap of the pitch to take in his new surroundings, pausing to pose for pictures and shake the hands of the PSG faithful.
“Neymar,” fans chanted. Coming up with a more imaginative chant will take a little longer yet, just like his debut.
Rob Harris is at www.twitter.com/RobHarris and www.facebook.com/RobHarrisReports
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