Paris Saint-Germain head coach Thomas Tuchel defended Neymar after the wantaway star was targeted by the club's own supporters during Sunday's Ligue 1 win over Nimes.

Neymar – tipped to leave the French champions amid links to Barcelona and Real Madrid – sat out the 3-0 victory against Nimes as PSG opened their title defence with three points.

Amid growing speculation over an imminent departure, sections of the Parc des Princes aimed derogatory chants towards Neymar before and during the match.

"It's a little difficult, I don't know what to say. I saw [the public's reaction on Neymar] on my colleagues' phones because I hadn't heard that during the game," Tuchel said about the chants directed at Neymar.

"Can I understand that? Yes and no, that's the way it is in our lives. The emotions are serious, the emotions are still there, okay. But on the other hand, Neymar is still our player, still my player, and I will always protect my players. He's in the locker room, he's here and I'll protect him.

"I can understand that not everyone likes what he said and what he did. I understand, but we have to express a level to express our emotion."

Asked if PSG missed Neymar against Nimes, Tuchel added: "He is still missing, because he can find solutions that only he can find. He can open spaces with movements, accelerations, one against the other.

"It was a little lacking today to be more decisive in the first half. But we have to find other solutions, we have to give rhythm with passes, with intensive runs. But it's clear, he's Neymar, and he has extraordinary qualities. If he is not on the field, he is missing, but it is our challenge to find solutions. We still have to improve."

While Neymar was absent on Sunday, Edinson Cavani, last season's top scorer Kylian Mbappe and Angel Di Maria led the way for PSG in Paris.

After Cavani broke the deadlock via the penalty spot in the first half, Mbappe and Di Maria put the result beyond doubt following the interval.

"The best thing is that they [Neymar and Mbappe] play together," Tuchel said. "It is not a question of whether Mbappe can give more when Neymar is not there.

"Kylian gives a lot, he's been very focused for four weeks now. He puts a lot of intensity into training, into matches. It's great for the team to improve. But the best thing is that Neymar is next to him."

Mbappe, who hinted he could be ready for a "new project" following the 2018-19 season, scored a Ligue 1-high 33 goals as PSG retained their crown last term.

"As I said last year, he is invited by the club to take more responsibilities every day. Taking responsibilities does not mean taking every penalty, hitting every corner or every free-kick," Tuchel continued. "It's not like that, there are many ways to take responsibilities, and he does that.

"He started this season with a lot of concentration, I'm very happy. He's here, I have a feeling he's happy. He has objectives for himself and the team, and he does everything to achieve them. He gives his opinion, and we're going to keep developing that. He has a good relationship with everyone, he is reliable."

Kylian Mbappe admitted Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain cannot be the same without Neymar amid growing speculation over his future.

Neymar has been linked to former club Barcelona and LaLiga giants Real Madrid, and he was absent as PSG opened their title defence with a 3-0 win over Nimes on Sunday.

PSG's sporting director Leonardo hinted Neymar – who cost a world-record €222million to land from Barca in 2017 – could be close to leaving the French capital.

Asked if PSG can improve this season, star team-mate Mbappe told Canal+: "It depends, we will try.

"But we will not lie; we must also see what will happen with Neymar. It's not the same team without Neymar as it is with him. But we will try to do it for the fans."

Neymar has scored 34 goals in 37 Ligue 1 appearances despite both his seasons at PSG being interrupted by serious foot injuries.

PSG and Brazil team-mate Marquinhos played down the speculation as he preferred to focus on football.

"Everyone is focused on our game, and our philosophy," Marquinhos added via Canal+. "The rest, we leave it to the board and Neymar.

"They know very well what to do. We really have to think about the pitch, not the transfers."

Paris Saint-Germain's attacking talents stepped up in the absence of Neymar as the champions began their Ligue 1 title defence with a 3-0 win over Nimes on Sunday.

Neymar was left out amid ongoing speculation over his future, but Edinson Cavani, Kylian Mbappe and Angel Di Maria were all on target at the Parc des Princes.

Champions in six of the last seven seasons, Cavani got the ball rolling for PSG with a contentious first-half penalty that was followed by a well-taken strike from Mbappe.

Mbappe then turned provider by setting up substitute Di Maria for the third as Thomas Tuchel's men made a serene start to their latest title defence.

A calf injury prevented Ander Herrera from making his home debut, but fellow new signings Pablo Sarabia and Abdou Diallo were both handed starts.

The hosts' breakthrough arrived 24 minutes in through Cavani's penalty, awarded for a handball against Pablo Martinez.

Sarabia's whipped corner hit Martinez on the hand, but PSG's appeals were muted and play was allowed to continue for a further minute before the referee pulled play back for a VAR check.

Nimes goalkeeper Paul Bernardoni produced a flying save to keep out Sarabia's left-footed volley at the back post 10 minutes later, while Cavani failed to convert an Mbappe cutback from close range shortly before half-time.

But PSG gave themselves breathing space 56 minutes in thanks to Mbappe's sweet strike into the top left corner after being teed up by Juan Bernat.

And Di Maria rounded off the scoring four minutes after being introduced from the bench, picking out the bottom right-hand corner once played in by Mbappe.

What does it mean? Neymar saga turns sour

Neymar has not featured for PSG since last season and he was not part of the squad today, with sporting director Leonardo hinting this week a move away from the club - either to Real Madrid or Barcelona - could be close.

Certain sections of the Parc des Princes aimed derogatory chants towards Neymar before and during the match, but on the field Tuchel's men showed they can cope without the Brazil forward as Cavani, Mbappe and Di Maria all registered.

Mbappe up and running

The path is clear for Mbappe to become the undisputed star of this PSG side should Neymar depart, and he took just 56 minutes of the new campaign to get off the mark. He also linked up well with Cavani and teed up Di Maria for the third goal.

Verratti and Draxler let off the hook

Despite already being on yellow cards, Marco Verratti and Julian Draxler both produced strong challenges in the final 25 minutes of the game that could have led to their dismissal on another day.

What's next?

PSG have an away game against a familiar foe next Sunday as they travel to Rennes, who they beat in the Trophee des Champions last week, while Nimes host Nice the day before.

Neymar will not play in Paris Saint-Germain's Ligue 1 opener against Nimes due to an injury according to head coach Thomas Tuchel, with sporting director Leonardo saying talks over the forward's future are "more advanced than before".

The Brazil international is the subject of media speculation linking him with a move away from the Ligue 1 champions with a return to Barcelona reportedly in the offing, while long-term suitors Real Madrid are also said to be in the running.

Barca head coach Ernesto Valverde was coy on the issue, saying only "we'll see what happens" when asked about the prospect of bringing the 27-year-old back to Camp Nou.

Leonardo indicated that a resolution over Neymar's future is not far away, telling reporters: "Talks are more advanced than before, but no agreement.

"We will see what happens - everybody needs the future to be defined."

With Neymar's future still unclear, Tuchel confirmed the Brazil international is not available for the champions' first league game.

"Neymar did not finish [Saturday's] training. It is not possible that he plays tomorrow," he said.

"It is my job to be coach. He is in an individual training phase, in and out of collective sessions. He is still a little injured. He took a knock today and did not do a full week."

Should Neymar leave PSG, Kylian Mbappe will pick up the mantle as the club's leading light - a role it could be argued he already occupies.

Tuchel was asked about his relationship with the World Cup-winning France international, who he said will start alongside Edinson Cavani against Nimes.

"Our relationship is good," Tuchel said of Mbappe.

"Yes, he is a star, but I do not think about him that way. I am always trying to find ways to get him to score.

"He wants responsibility, he is ready and he is mature."

Adding a final word on transfers at the end of a rumour-laden close-season, Tuchel said he was eager to turn his attention to matters on the pitch.

"I do not want to think about [transfers] too much," said Tuchel. "I will lose my mind.

"I am focused on my team and the guys we have here. They need my energy and attention. We will decide if things happen."

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