The sheer scale of the fees involved to wrestle Neymar away from Barcelona should make the prospect untenable, yet Paris Saint-Germain are justified in believing they can pull off football’s most-audacious deal.
Reports broke on Monday that the wealthy Parisians were prepared to trigger the Brazil forward’s €222 million (Dh940.5 million) release clause.
The story has caused a furore, with Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu stating the 25-year-old is “200 per cent” certain to stay put at the same time as reputable media outlets were showcasing the veracity of the record-shattering move.
Neymar might seem that he has it all in Spain. But here are a trio of reasons why he could be set for The City of Light.
“By the side of [Lionel] Messi you will always be second, you will always be in his shadow”, read an unnamed source close to Neymar in Barcelona-daily Sport as the PSG rumours first came to light.
This is a pertinent point and highlights the issue of whether a superstar in his own right, who has 52 goals in 77 appearances for football’s most-successful nation, should be performing a deferential role in his mid-20s?
To lift the Ballon d’Or he craves, Neymar must strike out on his own. Any success Barcelona experience, and there has been two La Ligas and a Champions League won since his arrival in 2013, will ultimately be attributed to Messi.
This is an insurmountable state of affairs at the Camp Nou until the Argentine great steps aside.
In the previous two decades, only the ‘Galacticos’ team of the early years of this century can claim to have truly shared football’s top individual honours between them. But even then, Ronaldo earned the 2002 FIFA World Player of the Year gong for his exploits with Brazil when he was an Internazionale employee and Luis Figo’s came a year after his cataclysmic move from Barcelona.
With Messi coming off arguably his finest individual year in a Barca shirt, life in his shadow will only get colder.
Momentum is such an important intangible in football.
At the moment, a state of stasis exists between PSG and Barcelona – even counting last year’s Champions League drama. Yet the acquisition of Neymar would redress the balance.
The Parisians’ summer business would be headlined by fending off the Catalans’ advances for star midfielder Marco Verratti and the plundering, in response, of one of the finest attackers in world football.
In one swoop, they would look the better bet to land the Champions League. This trophy is a key determinant of who wins the Ballon d’or – six of the last nine victors lifted both in the same year.
Barca’s work, in contrast, has been discouraging. New head coach Ernesto Valverde is destined for disappointment in regards to his desire for a reunion with Manchester United’s Ander Herrera, while Verratti appears increasingly unobtainable.
At the same time as the club’s accountants count the stymying cost of Messi’s monster new contract, they are struggling to agree a deal to bring Brazil midfielder Paulinho back to Europe from China’s Guangzhou Evergrande.
The acquisition of Portugal’s reserve right-back Nelson Semedo and return of Gerard Deulofeu do not stack up.
If PSG come through on their Neymar dream, they will be the ones exhibiting the behaviour required to land the sport’s top trophies.
With the Brazilian as their new figurehead for a Champions League-push in 2017/18 and the World Cup coming in the summer, Neymar would be perfectly positioned to break Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo’s hold on the Ballon d’Or.
If Neymar was to make the move to PSG, he would be continuing a fine tradition.
Brazilians have played a defining role during the club’s 47-year history, with a number of illustrious names flourishing in the French capital.
Ronaldinho cemented his status as the sport’s emerging entertainer there from 2001-03, while Rai’s sterling service from 1993-98 will never be forgotten. The likes of Leonardo, Ricardo, Valdo, Nene and David Luiz have all also left an indelible mark.
The influence has only grown in recent years. Head coach Unai Emery could count on Dani Alves, Marquinhos, Thiago Silva, Lucas Moura and – Brazil-born Italy international – Thiago Motta next season, with recently-retired Maxwell retained as assistant sporting director.
This is the perfect environment for Neymar to strike out on his own and prove his greatness.
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