Suzhou, China | AFP | Midfielder Julian Draxler said Monday that the single-minded “egos” of Neymar and Paris Saint-Germain’s other star forwards did not always make it easy for the team.
And the German World Cup winner told AFP in an interview in China that he was still hurting from the French club’s failure to go farther in the Champions League last season.
PSG play Sydney FC in a friendly on Tuesday in Suzhou, China, but Draxler already has his mind on what promises to be another big season for the club and him personally.
Draxler, part of Germany’s 2014 World Cup-winning squad, said it was “a pleasure” to play with the attacking triumvirate of Neymar, Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappe — even though it has its challenges.
The Brazilian star Neymar, who is in China but will not be involved in the match as he works his way towards full fitness, has made clear that he wants to return to Barcelona.
“All of them are exceptional players, it is hard to find in the world players of this level,” said Draxler, who arrived in the French capital in January 2017 for a reported 36 million euros from Wolfsburg.
“But of course they have their own minds, their own heads, they live football, they want to score every game, so they have an ego.
“So sometimes it’s not easy for the whole team, but if you are lucky enough to play alongside these players, it’s just a pleasure every day.”
Like Neymar, Draxler — who has more than 50 caps for Germany — has been linked with a move away from the perennial French champions, having been in and out of the starting XI.
Asked how he would summarise his time in France so far, Draxler blew out his cheeks and paused.
– ‘Hurts a lot’ –
“It’s two-and-a-half years now since I arrived and I won a lot of (domestic) titles so I am happy about that,” he said.
“I became a better player than I was before, so that’s positive, but what is negative is what we achieved in the Champions League.
“We did not go far in the Champions League and that was one of the goals when I signed.”
Bankrolled by Qatari money and coached by Draxler’s fellow German Thomas Tuchel, PSG went out in the last 16 of the Champions League after conceding a late goal home to an injury-hit Manchester United.
“It hurts a lot, it hurts still that we did not go through,” said Draxler, five months on.
“But from the potential in the team, we are ready to go far in the Champions League.”
Draxler was linked over the summer with Bayern Munich, Bayer Leverkusen and Tottenham Hotspur, but he made it clear that he is focused only on showing PSG what he can do.
He said that he has “space to improve — a lot”.
“I am almost 26 and I think the best years of my career are coming now, I hope so.
“Now I am a good age: I have experience but I am still young,” he added.
“Hopefully the fans and the club will see the best version of Julian in the next season.”