Monday, 6 August 2012

What shall we do with the grumpy Nene?

*Just for your information, I find the headline works best if you sing it to the tune of What Shall we do with the Drunken Sailor. At least, that's what I've been doing all afternoon.

On Saturday night Barcelona picked up what is surely the biggest title they've won in recent seasons, the Trophee de Paris.

They claimed the prestigious, sought-after prize 4-1 on penalties after a thrilling hard-fought 2-2 draw with Paris Saint-Germain at the Parc des Princes. The visitors had taken a 2-0 lead through Rafinha and Leo Messi (pen), but PSG hit back through Zlatan Ibrahimovic (pen) and Zoumana Camara to take the tie to spot-kicks, where the man from Catalonia prevailed. Having achieved such success so early, new Barca boss Tito Vilaneuva has set himself a high bar for the forthcoming season.

One man who wasn't around for the shoot-out was Nene. According to reports the Brazilian left the stadium at half-time, apparently angry at having been substituted. To put this into context, Nene was one of five players who got the hook at the break as Carlo Ancelotti, quite reasonably, decided to take a look at as many players as possible in his team's last friendly before the start of the season. According to the Parisien, this latest diva-strop came just 24 hours after he turned up late for a training session.

Fits of pique have always been part and parcel of Nene's game, his suspect temperament is one of the things that makes him one of Ligue 1's most entertaining characters. He gets away with acting like a bit of a brat because his output on the pitch is impressive - last season he was joint top-scorer in Ligue 1, bagging 21 goals and contributing 11 assists in 35 games. That he's not an out-and-out striker makes those stats all the more impressive and, like most PSG supporters, I am a massive fan of his mad skilz.

But all good things must come to an end and, much as it saddens me to write this, I believe that it's time for a club and player to part ways.

Nene's mood seems to have been getting increasingly bad over the summer, with the thorny issue of his contract causing him some distress. His current deal expires next year and the club seem unkeen to offer an extension to a player who will be 32 by the end of the season. Now if I was in charge I would just give him a two-year extension to keep him quiet - what's the point of being filthy rich if you can't indulge your star players? But given that the hierarchy seem unwilling to do that, perhaps because he isn't the kind of massive name that will sell shirts in the Far East, we have to assume that we will either be selling him or keeping an unhappy player.

The PSG squad this season contains more than it's fair share of ego. The likes of Zlatan, Menez, and Sakho are certainly not shrinking violets, and dressing room strife is probably one of the biggest threats to our chances of winning the league. An unhappy Nene increases the likelihood of a bust-up, and it seems unlikely that buggering off home at half-time will have endeared him to his team-mates.

And while his stats are impressive, they are perhaps a little misleading. It's well-known that he doesn't really turn up away from home - 18 of his 21 goals last year came at the Parc - and he only scored once in matches against the top five, a penalty at Lyon in that memorable 4-4 draw at the Stade Gerland. A outstanding Ligue 1 player, but is he likely to make an impact in the big games against the teams the new PSG now measure themselves against? I'd say probably not.

As I say, I'm gutted that I'm even thinking this, and my ideal scenario would be that he signs a new contract, accepts that the world of PSG isn't going to revolve around him anymore, and plays a big part in the team for the next few seasons. At the same time I understand why he might not be happy with that either- after all he has done nothing to deserve being demoted below Ibra, Lavezzi et al.

But sadly with the way the club is now I have a horrible feeling that Nene's time at PSG is destined to end on a sour note. Perhaps it would be better for all concerned if he left now as a hero, with memories of two superb seasons still fresh in the mind, rather than in a few months time with everyone feeling bitter.


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