Football

Published on July 22nd, 2017 | by Paco Polit

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Neymar: A never-ending soap opera for a battered Barcelona

Another summer, another Neymar drama. From the law courts to the sport pages, the Brazilian footballer may now be more trouble than he’s worth

It may become the story of the summer in the football world, even when Cristiano Ronaldo’s doubts regarding his Real Madrid future seemed completely impossible to top. Not now, after Neymar Junior and his family are reportedly assessing a potential move to Ligue 1 and joining the Paris Saint Germain ranks.

The scoop was let out in the wild a few days ago, and everything started as usual, with a few tidbits regarding the striker’s discomfort in Barcelona. Soon, the breaking news snowball grew to humungous proportions. Catalan outlet ‘Sport’ and several French newspapers have followed the breadcrumbs and slowly but steadily uncovered the whole affair.

Neymar himself is the first one to feed the speculation with his roaring silence. While he has been outspoken and swiftly denied any similar news in the past, he’s being unusually quiet this summer. Strategy is very important in this matter. Meanwhile, his friends and close sources speak for him, painting a bleak picture where he feels down as many of his Brazilian team mates have left (only Rafinha Alcántara remains from a tightly-knitted clan formed by Dani Alves, Adriano Correia and Douglas Costa) and no new ones seem to be arriving (his father has tried to push Barça to sign Lucas Lima, Phillippe Coutinho and Gabriel Jesus, with no success to date).

His place inside the squad is also a reason for being distraught. Neymar (25) admires and is friends with Leo Messi (30), but living day after day overshadowed by the best player in the world can eventually erode one’s confidence and prospects. Neymar’s father has always been the demanding type, and the player’s family believes a move to another big European side where the attacker could be its undisputed leader in the pitch would benefit him.

Finally… legal trouble. Probably the biggest reason of the lot to leave town. Since his arrival to FC Barcelona in 2013, Neymar and his dad have had a fair number of legal problems with tax authorities, especially in everything involved with the conditions of his original transfer from Santos. Mud has spread everywhere, staining both their reputation and third parties such as former president Sandro Rosell, current president Josep Bartomeu and a couple more.

Enter Paris Saint Germain and its owner, Nasser Al-Khelaïfi. Right now, the French superpower has tried (and possibly succeeded) to tick all of Neymar’s figurative boxes. Moving to another country and leaving behind most of the reputation damage due to the player’s trials and legal turmoil? Check.

A Brazilian-friendly environment with players such as Thiago Silva, Thiago Motta, Lucas Moura or his best pal Dani Alves? Check. Superstar and leader status from the get-go? Check. And, most importantly: the economic muscle of being able to pay the gargantuan €222 million buyout clause and making Neymar one of the best-paid players in modern football? Check and check.

Neymar’s Barça team mates are trying to persuade him to stay. It will be difficult. If the situation turns around, it will surely involve another salary rise and contract review to narrow the gap between him and Leo Messi, the undisputed king if we speak about wages in the football world. It’s an effort FC Barcelona isn’t ready to make just yet; in fact, such an astronomical figure (€222 million would be by far the biggest transfer fee ever for a player) is seen inside Barça’s board as a chance to rebuild the team and enhance it with two or three other top players.

Other circumstances factor into the transfer: for example, after learning about PSG’s intentions, FIFA officials are watching closely for developments as the French side has previously broken Financial Fair Play rules, and this move could push those boundaries even further. Also, there’s a reportedly huge bonus sum for Neymar’s father (who acts as his son’s agent) if he helps to clinch the PSG deal.

However, things aren’t set in stone and can easily turn around in a matter of days. A week from now we could be talking about a stall in the negotiations, or football’s biggest transfer ever… or happily staying in FC Barcelona. In Neymarland, everything can change in a heartbeat.

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About the Author

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Paco Polit is a Valencia-based journalist with over ten years experience reporting La Liga, covering both Valencia CF and Levante’s news, signings, ups and downs. Madrid and Barcelona are huge, indeed, but the Spanish La Liga is much, much more: regarded as the top football competition in the world, he enjoys explaining why to every reader from abroad.



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