Poetic justice for prince of divas

IT couldn't have happened to a nicer fella – or a nicer club. You'd have to be a saint not to admit to a spot of schadenfreude over the timing of Neymar's injury. So cruel that Sod, himself, might have hesitated to inflict it.

The £200 million man is now going to miss the kind of game that made Qatar lavish its wealth upon him and PSG in the first place – a shot at European football supremacy by knocking Real Madrid off their perch.

Billed as a nouveau riche vs establishment battle, the stakes have never been higher. This is not just about the balance of power in the European game but a power play by this tiny speck of a Gulf nation.

Already hosting the 2022 World Cup, Qatar has decided football is the way to get noticed on the world scene. And so they've poured a few billion cubic feet's worth of natural gas into the Paris club.

But now all these carefully laid plans could come to nothing: broken metatarsal = broken dreams, as David Beckham and Wayne Rooney could tell them.

The circumstances in which Neymar sustained the injuries – his ankle is twisted too – only add to Qatari frustration.

It was an innocuous challenge, the game against Marseille was already won and there were just 10 minutes left.

He fell awkwardly but according to Marseille's Jordan Amavi, "He'd been asking for it all game".

He was fouled eight times in a feisty encounter, but no blame can be attached to Bouna Sarr, the last player to touch him. It's a case of pity the poor rich boy.

Peel off the leopard-print tracksuit, remove the halo, cut through the lifestyle of an ancient emperor, ignore the tantrums, the greed, the preening, the diving, the corruption trial, land on the rooftop helipad of his Rio de Janeiro mansion, get past the entourage, and you might find a human being in there.

But the one presented to the world as its most expensive footballer (by a cool £100m at the time) epitomises everything dislikeable about the modern game. Indeed, if he'd been invented it would have been hard to bestow quite so many unpleasant traits on one individual.

In comparison, the Wolf of Wall Street looks like an ideal son-in-law.

Neymar certainly has the same love of lucre. Already under a cloud over his arrival from Santos in a suspiciously low £49m deal – his father and Barca president Rosell took the rap for that in court – nothing became him in his Nou Camp life like his leaving it.

With an ego unable to live in Lionel Messi's shadow any longer, he did not tell Barca he was going until his bonus was paid. Then he demanded another – for loyalty!

Assured he would be top dog in Paris, he wasted no time in trying to assert his status by wrestling the ball from teammate Edison Cavani who was about to take a penalty.

In the end, Cavani, the designated penalty taker, took it and missed but the row continued in the dressing room.

The pair had to be separated and the incident caused an almighty split among the other mercenaries in the squad.

Reports claimed that Cavani was paid a million euros to relinquish spotkick duties – just to appease the new man – but they were fiercely denied.

A team dinner arranged to smooth things over had the atmosphere of a funeral. It was enough for veteran midfielder Blaise Matuidi to quit altogether.

To be fair to Neymar, when you have two personal physios who are not allowed to touch any other player, are spared both the drudgery of defending and strong tackles in training, you might just get a little too big for your Nikes.

If it sounds like the way a medieval prince might be treated on his first day at school, manager Unai Emery has no control over him: he has a direct line to head honcho Nasser Al Khelaifi.

In view of all this, it is perhaps surprising that Neymar has managed to deliver at all let alone 29 goals in 30 games.

But Ligue Un is an easy ride and no preparation for Real Madrid whom PSG allowed to come from behind and win the first leg 3-1.

As Adrien Rabiot noted: "It's all well and good putting eight goals past Dijon, (when Neymar scored four) but it's matches like this where we have to stand up and be counted."

Against Real, Neymar rarely stood up, making more dives for penalties than he had shots on goal.

Between them, he and PSG sum up a great deal of what is wrong with modern football. Neymar deserted the MSN, the best front three in the history of the game, for pieces of silver and to be top dog.

Disliked everywhere except in Paris, the club were formed only in 1970 – Real Madrid had already won the European Cup six times – and did nothing until they were deemed a convenient sweetener by a rich nation who didn't know what to do with its money.

It was all tied up with France selling arms to Qatar, then president Nicolas Sarkozy forcing then UEFA boss Michel Platini to switch his vote for the 2022 World Cup hosts from the US to Qatar. It's about as unsavoury as it gets.

Which is why many find themselves siding with Real Madrid - as the underdogs.

For all their wealth, they are a proper football club, with proper fans and a proper history. Their purpose is to win trophies – and not be a vehicle for a foreign country to throw its weight around.

It is to be hoped that Neymar recovers in time for the World Cup as he is one of the game's true greats.

But if he is to adorn the competition, we'd be grateful if he could leave the tracksuit behind. And it would be even better if he could change his spots.