Only Neymar could be pushed out of one major European club and the doors of two others swing wide open.
Through one door it’s a return to the club which harnessed the very best of his deep talent stores.
Through the other it’s a past which could have been but now could be. Real and Barca have battled for Neymar before and they do so again as Paris Saint-Germain look to offload the wantaway superstar.
From a playing perspective, having both recruited so well over the summer, neither really need him as much as the 27-year-old needs them.
Obviously other factors are involved, though, but what are they and is there sufficient rationale to break the bank for him.
Here, we look at the reasons for and against a mega move.
Why Real Madrid SHOULD sign him
Fear factor – Zinedine Zidane has so much quality in attack, but what Los Blancos have lacked since Cristiano Ronaldo departed is a player with genuine fear factor.
It’s a pretty exclusive category, but Neymar is in the bracket of players capable of leaving defences in disarray.
Reputation plays into the psyche of defenders and he has the skill to capitalise on any hesitancy, threatening to contort challengers every time he’s in possession.
Eden Hazard has the same effect as well, Vinicius Junior looks like he could one day join the club, but Neymar is one of the best in this regard.
Pairing him with Hazard is the stuff of fantasy, unless of course, your defending the two of them in which case it’s a nightmare prospect.
Market leader – Fans convulse, the board eats it right up. For a club like Madrid, appearances are everything.
While the remit in recent times has been to hoover up the best young talent on the planet, the opportunity to sign one of the current premier players is too lucrative to ignore.
Madrid lean on their hubristic profile more than any other team. A squad containing luxury assets and the world’s best stars is a huge part of the Galactico identity, and by extension, it’s why the club has such an enormous global fan base.
In the modern era, football fans – particularly those without a geographical tie to a certain club – are attached to individuals as opposed to teams.
When Ronaldo left, a big chunk of support was siphoned out of Madrid and pumped into Juventus. No doubt one of the biggest reasons why club president Florentino Perez is obsessed with bringing Neymar in, is because of the marketing potential.
Like it or not, Real’s money-making tentacles guzzle cash from across the globe and it is fundamental to their success on the pitch.
Excellence sells, and few have more clout than Neymar in this regard.
Why Real Madrid SHOULDN’T sign him
Kylian Mbappe – For the health of a certain farm animal inhabiting Barcelona, it’s probably best Neymar stays away from the Bernabeu…
All Luis Figo jokes aside, arguably the biggest reason not to buy Neymar is because he’s not even PSG’s most prized asset.
It’s no secret Kylian Mbappe is the long-term project, both for Madrid and even the player himself. The World Cup winner is a well-known Real Madrid fan, his childhood bedroom was, after all, wallpapered in Cristiano Ronaldo posters, and so it’s inevitable Mbappe will one day don the blanco jersey.
Considering there were suggestions of discontent this summer, Mbappe hinted at much when he received his French player of the year awards, it’s conceivable that the developing superstar could attempt to defect next year.
Adding Neymar to Hazard, both from a status standpoint and financial outlay would surely strangle Real’s clear advantage in ripping Mbappe from PSG.
If it’s a choice between one or the other, it’s a decision which can reach quicker than Mbappe’s electric feet.
Attitude adjustment – It’s not so much of an issue if he rejoins Barcelona because Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez have always been able to keep Neymar in check, but that level of respected seniority doesn’t exist past Zidane at Real Madrid.
In a dressing room full of egos, and perhaps Zidane is the centre of that culture as well, adding Neymar to the mix is like tossing an unpinned grenade.
With so much ego in one room, there is the unstable potential that they just all collapse in on themselves, leaving behind a personality blackhole.
This is not a stance without merit, Neymar’s time in Paris was defaced with problems off the pitch.
His enormous entourage, allegations of rape (later thrown out of a Brazilian court), frequent fall-outs with team-mates such as Edinson Cavani and Julian Draxler hardly make for an appealing presence.
Then there are the wage demands. Neymar would likely skewer the current structure and become the club’s highest-earner. Does his injury history and off-the-pitch problems really reflect that sort of remuneration? It’s a tough sell for Madrid’s current stable of stars.
Why Barcelona SHOULD sign him
MSN back online – There are two players not-named Messi with a legitimate claim to being Barcelona’s best player in recent years; Luis Suarez and Neymar.
There can be debate over which one was better and only personal bias decides it, but there is no argument as to the trio’s standing as the best forward line of their generation, maybe even in history?
The statistics and tangible success make for a compelling case to get the band back together. They had more hits than the Beatles, hammering in 364 goals between them from the start of the 2014/15 season when Suarez joined the club until Neymar left for PSG in 2017.
In two seasons, eight trophies were captured; two La Liga titles, one Champions League, a European Super Cup, a FIFA Club World Cup and three Copa del Rey triumphs.
Their warm friendship off the pitch made for a choreographed cold-blooded approach on it, the shared responsibility between three of the world’s best individuals melding for staggering success.
They each made the other better, Messi and Suarez in refining Neymar’s finishing, the Brazilian in turn taking the attention away from the duo to help expand their own games.
One of the explanations for Neymar’s decision to pull the plug on MSN was apparently because of Messi’s shadow, but perhaps now he realises the Argentine shone the brightest light on him.
Life after Messi – At Real, Neymar is capable of replacing Ronaldo, at Barca the same can be said of Messi.
For a long time Neymar was considered the heir to a throne which would one day be abdicated by the two dominant forces of this generation.
He was the third in command, a player coming into his prime as those two moved into the final phases of their career.
But since 2017, injury has led to stagnation and the opportunity for other worthy candidates to emerge, most notably Mbappe.
Return to Barcelona and not only is there a path of redemption, but also enlightenment. Messi is 32 years old, and although the cerebral Barca captain continues to evolve, the club has to begin planning for his eventual decline.
Neymar can be central to that transition. Ultimately, he made a bad choice, at the wrong time, but with the help of Messi there’s a chance to rectify that.
There’s no other player on the planet capable of filling the Messi chasm, Barca know that and maybe so, too, does Neymar.
Why Barcelona SHOULDN’T sign him
Low work-rate – As mentioned, Messi is getting old. What that means is that his workrate and general physical output has declined.
Now, for a player like Messi, having his energy stores reserved for attacking situations makes perfect sense. He drops in and creates from deep, wanders into dangerous positions between the lines, plus of course scores any and all manner of goals.
The team is set-up and built to allow Messi to dictate and decide games as his team-mates pick up the added workload.
Most of the time, it is to the collective’s benefit to cater for the individual, but can they really afford to add another player into the XI with a low work-rate?
Neymar is an outstanding attacking force. His 51 goals in 58 games for PSG is evidence that his output in front of goal has not declined.
But his defensive contribution is minimal and when adding in Suarez’s evident physical degradation, MSN all of a sudden doesn’t look quite so fresh.
Too many options – How many is too many? Depending on the make up of the offer it would take to bring Neymar back, be it players plus cash, Ernesto Valverde could be left with a very top-heavy outfit.
Granted, Philippe Coutinho may exit, perhaps even Ousmane Dembele, too, but it’s unlikely both will. That would leave Valverde with Antoine Griezmann, Suarez, Messi and one of Dembele/Coutinho alongside Neymar. All would want to start and all are paid the type of wage package equal to established superstars.
Options are good, too many options, though, is unbalanced can rapidly lead to disharmony. This is not FIFA, a console doesn’t factor in the human element of personality and ego, stacking a team with so many attacking talents is dangerous.
However, as previously said, when it comes to Neymar, common sense is nowhere to be seen from a purely football standpoint.
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Neymar left Barcelona for PSG for a world record fee of €222 million in August 2017, but after two seasons with the French club he is reportedly keen to return to Spain.
That saw him refuse to return for pre-season training earlier in the summer and Valverde’s reluctance to deny his interest could see Neymar reunited with Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and new signing Antoine Griezmann in a devastating attack.
“We will see what happens,” said Valverde.
“The classic response is that he plays for another team and that’s that. All I know is that I’m the manager and I only think about the players I have.
“As it stands, I don’t know what is going to happen. There are many factors to whether he leaves or not but in principle I don’t know what will happen and I’m not thinking about him (Neymar).”
The Brazilian is in talks to leave Paris Saint-Germain with both the Blaugrana and their bitter rivals Real battling for his signature.
Neymar is said to be desperate to leave Paris but while a transfer seems likely, the destination is not yet clear.
However, Alena hopes it won’t be to the Spanish capital.
“It would hurt if Neymar went to our eternal rival, especially after playing [for Barcelona],” Alena said after Barca defeated Napoli 4-0 in a pre-season friendly.
“We hope that he comes back. He’s a spectacular player, one of the best in the world.
“If he comes back it would be an amazing signing, it would be an incredible way to close the transfer window. He would make us all better.”
PSG revealed on Saturday that Neymar transfer talks are “more advanced than before” after he was dropped for the French champions’ opening Ligue 1 match.
Sporting director Leonardo confirmed to reporters that the Brazil icon was near the exit door but that PSG were “not yet ready to give their approval (to the transfer)” ahead of Sunday’s game against Nimes at the Parc des Princes.
PSG coach Thomas Tuchel said: “Neymar did not complete training and it’s not possible that he plays tomorrow.”
The club are impatient for the transfer saga to reach a conclusion, one way or another.
“It’s important to shape our future for everyone,” Neymar’s fellow Brazilian Leonardo told a press conference.
“If he stays, he plays. If he leaves, he leaves. The quicker (we know) the better.”