'It's still Leo' – Neymar insists Messi has nothing to prove to critics

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Neymar insists team-mate Lionel Messi has nothing to prove to his critics in his second season as a Paris Saint-Germain player.

Messi had an underwhelming first campaign with PSG following his move from Barcelona, scoring 11 goals in 34 games – down on the 38 scored with Barca the previous year.

Those 11 goals came from an expected goals (xG) value of 16.8, suggesting Messi underperformed in front of goal based on the quality of his chances.

Messi assisted 14 goals, though, 10 of which came after the turn of the year – only Barca's Ousmane Dembele (11) has managed more across Europe's top five leagues in 2022.

The 35-year-old impressed in his first competitive outing of the 2022-23 campaign on Sunday as he opened the scoring in PSG's 4-0 Trophee des Champions win over Nantes.

However, when asked if that display is a sign of a new Messi at PSG, Neymar leapt to the defence of his colleague.

"I don't think so. I think people talk too much," he told Amazon Prime. "They don't know what's going on every day, what's going on inside.

"Leo, it's Leo. It's still Leo, it doesn't change. No, he continues to make the difference. He adapts.

"It is obvious that we hope that everything goes well for the three of us, for me, for Leo, for Kylian [Mbappe]. If the three of us are well, I'm sure it's good for the team."

Lionel Messi assisted 14 league goals last season
Lionel Messi assisted 14 league goals last season

Neymar scored twice after Messi had opened the scoring in Tel Aviv and Sergio Ramos was also on target as PSG won their first silverware under Christophe Galtier.

The Parisians have now won 11 Trophee des Champion crowns, including nine of the past 10 editions of the competition.

Neymar, who also created a game-high three chances, is pleased to have started the new campaign – his sixth with PSG – in style.

"I'm satisfied. We had a very good match with the team," he said. "It's very important to start winning and it's a match that ends in a trophy. Whatever happens, you have to win."

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