Napoli vs. Paris Saint-Germain: Winners and Losers from Acqua Lete Cup
As part of the deal that took Ezequiel Lavezzi to Paris two seasons ago, Paris Saint-Germain organised a friendly match in Naples against his former club Napoli on Monday evening.
The Serie A side welcomed back both Lavezzi and Edinson Cavani to the Stadio San Paolo and there were smiles all-round for both players and the home fans before the game.
The second half provided more of a spectacle than the first 45 minutes with goals from substitutes Gonzalo Higuain and Zlatan Ibrahimovic waking the fans up from what was an uneventful first half.
Both goals came from goalkeeping mistakes, Nicolas Douchez fumbled Lorenzo Insigne’s fierce shot and Higuain added the finish. Then Ibrahimovic capitalised from a finger-tip save from Rafael Cabral to side-foot in the equaliser.
It was Javier Pastore's late goal that stole the show though, returning to Italy from his time at Palermo he scored PSG’s second and the game-winner only minutes after coming on as a substitute.
The match also gave PSG coach Laurent Blanc the chance to play his first-choice central defence pairing of Thiago Silva and David Luiz for the first time after they returned to training following the World Cup.
However, the decision to play the Brazil captain backfired and provided the only real talking point as PSG’s captain had to come off after only 12 minutes. He pulled up after attempting a back heel, and he was later seen limping off the bench with his right hamstring heavily bandaged.
It was a match played at an obviously slower tempo than both sides would expect in league games, with both line-ups featuring a mixture of first-team members and players trying to impress both Blanc and Rafa Benitez.
Here are both the winners and losers from Monday night’s Acqua Lete cup match.
Losers: PSG Lose Their Captain
It’s only right to start with the losers, as it gives us the biggest story of the night.
After only three days training and the full 90 minutes against Stade de Reims on Friday night, it was a strange decision from Laurent Blanc to play Thiago Silva from the start on Tuesday.
The only obvious reason was to play his star defensive duo of Silva and David Luiz for the first time. Unfortunately for Blanc, Silva and PSG, it completely backfired.
Silva tried what looked like a routine back heel after 12 minutes, but as soon as he made contact he pulled up and instantly looked in pain.
He was quickly replaced by fellow Brazilian Marquinhos and the next scene was Silva being helped to the dressing room with his right hamstring heavily bandaged and two of PSG's staff having to help him off the field.
We all saw this summer how dangerous it can be to play David Luiz without Silva, and now it’s a problem Blanc will likely have to solve for a few weeks.
Losers: Lifeless Display from Ex-Napoli Forward
Edinson Cavani was quick to announce his displeasure at not playing a central role for PSG last season. On Monday night he got another chance to prove he is worthy of all the trouble, and once again he failed to grab the opportunity.
Yes, it was a meaningless friendly, but it was another abject performance from the former Napoli forward.
There was a clear lack of desire, and more importantly he didn’t put in the work-rate of someone who desperately wants to be PSG’s No. 1 striker.
To make things worse, Lauren Blanc made a point in removing the Uruguayan striker at half-time. It was meant to be a happy home coming, but it ended in a limp and lifeless display.
Winners: Javier Pastore with Another Telling Contribution
Is this finally the emergence of Javier Pastore as an influential player for PSG, or is he doing his best to orchestrate a transfer this summer.
Atletico Madrid are still interested in signing the Argentine midfielder, via Tom Conn of Inside Spanish Football, and after his excellent display against Reims, his instant impact against Napoli will give interested clubs hope that there is still a quality player ready to break out of his shell.
Minutes after coming on as a substitute, the playmaker pushed forward, danced past his marker before calmly slotting into the net. It was a lovely finish and a good sign after a positive weekend.
Winners: Kalidou Koulibaly Impresses for Napoli
Napoli’s second half was much more convincing than the first, and that is due to happen when you bring on Higuain, Dries Mertens and Insigne, but one player that did himself no harm in the first 45 was new signing Kalidou Koulibaly.
The former Metz player moved from Belgian side Gent in the summer, and his versatility could be a huge asset to Benitez this season.
On Monday he played on the right side, taking up the position of wing-back. He looks huge and clumsy on first glance, but then he seems to defy gravity and moves with both grace and fluidity.
Koulibaly is 187cm and is built like a 100-year-old tree, but he has the mobility of an Olympic gymnast. If he continues to impress, he could give Christian Maggio a push for a starting place this season.
Winners: Benitez Loses the Match but Wins the War
Coach Benitez will be much happier with that performance out of the two managers. PSG may have won the match, but it was the ideal warm-up for Napoli as they go into their Champions League play-off match with Athletic Bilbao next week.
The Italian side finished with no injuries or knocks, there were good first-half performances from Koulibaly and Jorginho and then the first-team players came on for the second half and impressed.
Both Higuain and Mertens looks sharp and in shape for the new season. Then the pace of Insigne absolutely destroyed the PSG defence. He will be absolutely key this season, and Benitez would have been delighted to see him blow past a defence that are weeks ahead in terms of preparation.
PSG may have lifted the Acqua Lete cup, but Napoli were the clear winners on Monday night.