DEPENDING on which newspaper or website you read, Neymar looks set to leave Paris Saint-Germain in the coming weeks. Or maybe not. There are rumblings from the French capital that Brazil’s troubled talisman has had enough of life in Ligue 1, that he’s longing for a move back to Barcelona.
It has been a fractious few months for Neymar, whom Barney Ronay of the Guardian called, “a footballer made from feathers and sherbert who has become a deeply irritating superstar”. There is something of the diva about him, for sure, but his ill-discipline is threatening to get the better of him – the accusations of sexual assault, the fracas with Rennes supporters, the injuries and the underlining feeling that being a giant in Ligue 1 is not good for his status. Ronay says that a move to Barca, may make sense for all concerned. He says the Spanish champions are ”a super club than can still take the weight of another royal visit”.
Of course, when a player like Neymar wants a move, he usually gets it and there are suggestions he will go on strike during PSG’s forthcoming tour of China in order to finesse his exit from the club.
There’s trouble brewing, though, as the Scottish Daily Record reports. PSG have said they will not let him go and have publicly stated that they expect Neymar to “respect his commitments”. There’s another side to this in that PSG have twice tried to sell Real Madrid their prize asset. Barca and PSG are not close pals, largely because the Catalans worked on trying to sign Marco Veratti a couple of years back. Marca added that PSG have not forgotten this and that is undoubtedly behind Nasser Al-Khelaifi offering Real Madrid the player.
Neymar was seen hugging Lionel Messi just before the Brazil v Argentina Copa América game and some cynics believe Messi is behind the Barca bid to bring him back. Club president, Josep Maria Bartomeu, reacted to this: “let’s end the myth, Messi doesn’t ask the club to sign certain players, he asks for a competitive team”. Bartomeu, speaking to ESPN, said Ousmane Dembele is a better player than Neymar. Who is he trying to kid?
France’s L’Equipe calls the stand-off between Neymar and PSG as “Le Grand bluff” and said the situation is irreversible, but also revealed that the rumoured clause allowing him to leave Paris after two seasons does not exist.
Goal reported that Neymar is unhappy that the wonder boy Kylian Mbappe has overshadowed him. One of the reasons that Neymar wanted to leave Barcelona was to have a better chance of winning the Ballon d’Or. That dream looks like it is fading – he was third in 2017 but fell to 12thin 2018. CIES Football Observatory’s data shows that his stock has fallen over the past year and his transfer valuation is now € 124.7 million.
But has Neymar’s time in Paris truly been successful? As far as Ligue 1 is concerned, he has played only 37 games out of 76, with injury contributing to that total. His goalscoring, as you would expect, has been impressive, 34 in those 37 games. On top of that, he has provided 20 assists. PSG have, predictably, won two league titles, one Coupe de France and one Coupe de la Ligue. The real problem for PSG has been Europe, where they have been eliminated in the Champions League last 16 in both Neymar campaigns. Europe’s top prize was the reason PSG bought Neymar. Sam Pilger of Forbes explained why Neymar opted for Paris: “this was a move motivated by naked ego; he wanted to be the main man, the star attraction and remove himself from Lionel Messi’s sizeable shadow at the Camp Nou”.
Pilger says Neymar has been on an adventure in Paris, but may be ready for the “greater challenge on offer in La Liga. “It is hard to see Neymar remaining in his gilded cage in Paris for the best years of his career, but this summer might be too early for him to flee back to Spain.”
Sources: The Guardian, Daily Record, ESPN, Goal, Marca, AS, L’Equipe, Bleacher Report, CIES Football Observatory.