Reports are coming in from Paris that Neymar Jr. has signed an agreement with Paris Saint-Germain about the possibility of leaving the French club should his former side Barcelona come calling.
Although the move looks highly unlikely, given Barcelona’s current financial climate, it could also be a last-ditch attempt from the Blaugrana president Josep Maria Bartomeu to clean up his heavily tarnished image.
Bartomeu has his hands full, as we also know that his board is showing a keen interest in acquiring Argentine centre-forward Lautaro Martinez from Italian club Inter Milan. The 22-year-old has an eye-watering release clause of €111 million, and his employers are in no mood to let him go for even a cent less.
It has to be either Neymar or Lautaro Martinez, and frankly, Barcelona could really do with some reinforcements in their forward line.
On the surface, if Lautaro arrives at the Nou Camp, his integration into the squad looks straightforward. He could be the ideal long-term replacement for Luis Suarez, who is now 33 years of age.
The Argentine could also be the heir to Antoine Griezmann, given the fact that the French World Cup winner is now 29, and is not getting any younger. However, it is the integration of Neymar that now looks more complicated.
When the Brazilian wonderkid first arrived from Santos in the summer of 2013, he was 21 years old. Back then, he had the proverbial world at his feet, and seemed to be the heir-apparent to the Messi-Ronaldo duopoly.
But now Neymar is no longer 21, and ironically enough, it is his PSG teammate Kylian Mbappe who literally has the world (cup) at his feet now. The young Frenchman became the first teenager to score in a World Cup final since Pele himself.
Once the hottest prospect of world football, Neymar’s place has been unceremoniously usurped by the Parisian youngster Mbappe.
It therefore becomes necessary to consider whether Neymar is worth all the money afterall. To be fair to him, he has actually been quite prolific in the French capital.
Neymar’s career and image at PSG
The 28-year-old Brazilian has scored an incredible 47 goals in 52 appearances in total for the club, but has been denied the chance to increase his tally after the French government stopped all sporting activity until September 2020, to curb the pandemic.
However, Neymar’s move to PSG has been viewed by many experts and former footballers as a downward move in his career. Perhaps in a more damning sense, an ankle injury prevented him from participating in Brazil’s victorious Copa America campaign in 2019.
Since his move to PSG, Neymar has oddly faded from the centre of footballing conversations. He went to Ligue 1 to escape the shadow of Lionel Messi, but unfortunately for him, since he left Barcelona, he has not been seen in Ballon d’Or ceremonies.
Nobody in the world doubts Neymar’s abilities. However during his time at Barcelona, Luis Enrique’s assistant Juan Carlos Unzué had asked the Brazilian to be more disciplined or he could end up being another Ronaldinho.
This led to a training session bust-up between Neymar and his assistant coach, just days before the former’s departure from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain.
Ronaldinho, who was also a talented footballer himself, and who like Neymar also played for Barcelona, could not sustain his game at the top-level due to excessive partying, nightlife and indiscipline. He recently made the headlines after ending up in a Paraguayan prison for his entry into the nation with a fake passport.
Unlike Ronaldinho however, who came to Barcelona after a stint in PSG, Neymar made the switch in an opposite direction.
Neymar also has a penchant for nightlife, and he is also an avid PUBG and Fortnite player. Although such activities endear him to his legions of young fans, some conservative coaches have disapproved of such things.
If Neymar comes to Barcelona, what will happen to Ansu Fati?
If Neymar arrives at Barcelona, the player whose growth will be hampered most is Ansu Fati. At 17 years of age, Fati has carved out an important place in the plans of his manager Quique Setien.
The youngster has been in amongst the goals, scoring after coming on as a substitute against Villareal in Barcelona’s 4-1 win. At the time of writing, Fati has scored 6 goals in 12 appearances for the club this season in the league, an impressive turnover from the teenager.
In the Champions League, he scored a crucial goal against Inter Milan at the San Siro, a goal that secured a much-needed 2-1 victory for his club. Incredibly, he scored just one and a half minutes after coming on as a substitute.
Fati has shown incredible maturity for his age, and the fact that he plays at the left-wing forward position, which Neymar also prefers, means that the latter’s arrival will definitely cut-short Fati’s playing time.
Bartomeu and the Barcelona board must be careful in how they handle the Neymar situation. They cannot put the club into more financial burden. Neymar’s services will not come cheap. At PSG, he reportedly earns a weekly wage of Є720,000.
Even when halved, that is still quite a large amount to pay on a weekly basis, especially for a club going through financial difficulties.
For now Barcelona must concentrate on winning the Champions League, but the Blaugrana will also be looking to bolster their squad with someone of Neymar’s quality before the new season gets underway.Published 08 Jul 2020, 17:11 IST