Cavani vs. Neymar farce an unwanted sideshow for Paris Saint-Germain
Paris Saint-Germain's clash with Bayern Munich on Wednesday in Champions League Group B is the most important match of their season so far -- and by some distance.
The Ligue 1 giants' German visitors and former coach Carlo Ancelotti have their own issues to deal with ahead of the encounter at Parc des Princes but they pale in comparison to the hysteria surrounding Les Parisiens.
Neymar sparked controversy by asking Edinson Cavani if he could take the second half penalty, which Anthony Lopes saved from the Uruguay international, in the 2-0 home win over Lyon in Le Championnat. If Neymar had known the wasp nest he was about to disturb, perhaps he would have thought twice about pestering Cavani.
Since the public spat between the pair, which also involved Dani Alves despite his protestations to the contrary, talk of the incident has not died down. If anything, this fire is raging more than ever. It is something that coach Unai Emery has failed to bring under control after a series of limp responses when publicly questioned over his stance on what has quickly been dubbed "Penaltygate" by the French press.
The latest episode in this running farce is that Cavani has reportedly rejected an offer of €1 million from PSG chairman and CEO Nasser Al-Khelaifi to automatically pay a contractual bonus regardless of whether or not he finishes the campaign as Ligue 1 top scorer. PSG have since denied this.
Neymar will win this power battle with Cavani, there is no doubt about that. Rightly or wrongly, the latter's consummate professionalism will either continue to grate with his new teammate or see him relinquish his role as penalty king because he always puts the collective before the individual.
Broken down into simple terms, the world's most expensive player will eventually usurp last term's hero because too much has been invested in him for PSG to not give him what he wants.
The only thing that might happen is that he might be made to wait longer than he planned for this to happen because of the capital club's inept handling of a relatively straightforward issue. Neymar will overpower his fellow South American, though, make no mistake about that.
We may well be witnessing Cavani's last season as a PSG player. Not necessarily because of the Neymar incident -- although it is not helping -- but more because another summer signing, Kylian Mbappe, will very soon need to be played through the middle of the attack to be best used. The France international's decent but far from dazzling start to life back home in the French capital already suggests this might be required sooner rather than later. It is also something which could save the likes of Angel Di Maria and/or Julian Draxler's Paris futures after this summer's uncertainty.
On top of all of that, sporting director Antero Henrique is said to be unimpressed by Cavani's form so far this season, despite nine goals and two assists from eight appearances across Ligue 1 and the Champions League to date. The 30-year-old's long-term position and Emery's long-term future with this team are topics that will be settled another day but this midweek, the Spaniard needs his star players to pull together and fire the team to victory over Bayern.
In theory, finishing ahead of the German champions will land PSG an easier draw once they reach the latter stages. In reality, the French giants need to beat Ancelotti's men to show they are already making progress after significant rejuvenation of their ambitious but stagnating project aimed at ultimate continental success.
For that to happen, Cavani and Neymar need to show the same complicity they showed during the 5-0 thrashing of Celtic in Glasgow just a few weeks ago and that they displayed in their first few domestic outings together.
If they fail to do that, the reaction will be far worse than anything they have experienced since "Penaltygate."
Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.