Neymar watch swirls around PSG

Larry O'Connor
The Detroit News

Transfer talk often swirls around participating International Champions Cup teams, but Paris Saint-Germain’s near reported signing of Brazilian superstar Neymar Jr. is drawing buzz internationally.

The Paris club is prepared to splash 197 million euros ($226.97 million U.S.) for the Barcelona forward, multiple media outlets are reporting. Meanwhile, his Spanish employer insists he was staying.

Neymar had 20 goals and 13 assists in 46 appearances for the Catalan giants last season.

“The club is also looking out for the needs of the club, more so for a consistent player than we would be talking about a specific player,” PSG Unai Emery said through an interpreter after the match, which his club won on penalty kicks following a 1-1 draw with AS Roma.

PSG finished second in Ligue 1 and bowed out in the Champions League Round of 16 against Barcelona after holding a 4-0 lead after the first leg.

Neymar scored twice in a 6-1 Barcelona victory in the return match at Camp Nou, marking one of the greatest comebacks in the competition’s history.

The sting of that defeat has resonated with the Parisian behemoths, who have a reputation for spending freely like the New York Yankees.

PSG landed Brazilian right back Dani Alves on a free transfer from Juventus on July 12 and was linked to numerous other potential deals.

AS Roma, which saw an exodus of players at the end of last season, notably inspirational captain Francesco Totti to retirement, was also busy fielding transfer-related queries during its four-day stay here.

The Giallorossi completed the signing of Sassuolo forward Gregoire Defrel Wednesday, according to Football Italia.

Defrel wasn’t available for Wednesday’s match.

The club is also linked to Leicester City midfielder Riyad Mahrez, which AS Roma manager Eusebio Di Francesco was decidedly coy about during a news conference Tuesday in Ann Arbor.

“"I can only say that Mahrez is an interesting player,” Di Francesco said of the Algerian.

Pitch perfect

The respective teams heaped praise on the Comerica Park playing surface, the infield of which was covered in sod. The soccer field ran from left field to the first-base side.

“I thought it was in good condition,” PSG’s Emery said. “The players after warm-ups all said it played well. There were some parts where it was obvious they made some adjustments for the field, but you could tell they put a lot of work into it.”

Event organizer Charlie Stillitano echoed those sentiments.

“They had the concert here, they had lots of rain, they had baseball and they did a tremendous job, the Tigers, in putting the field in,” said Stillitano, Relevent Sports chairman and founder. “There were no complaints at all about the field.

“I think it's a concern whenever we go to a baseball park (to play a soccer match) but these guys did a tremendous job.”

The arm band

With Daniele De Rossi on the bench, midfielder Kevin Strootman wore the captain’s armband against PSG.

De Rossi, who is the regular captain, has the inevitable task of replacing legend Totti

Totti was to AS Roma what Steve Yzerman was to the Red Wings — the face of the club. He announced his retirement at end of last season at age 40, having contributed 307 goals in 786 matches during a career in which the Giallorossi won a Serie A title (2001), two Coppa Italias and a pair of Italian Super Cups. He made his Roma debut as a 16-year-old in 1993.

Conspicuous by their absence

Paris Saint-Germain released its starting 11 with a substitute's bench that included players not with the team, namely forward Edinson Cavani and midfielder Angel Di Maria, who remained back in Miami where the club trained, a team spokesman said.

Cavani had 49 goals in 48 appearances last season for PSG.

Marquee players such as Ronaldo missed last year's ICC Real Madrid-Chelsea match at Michigan Stadium. @larryo1961