The last few weeks have cemented Neymar’s status – as if it wasn’t already secure – as the king of summer transfer drama.
We’ll take a stab at predicting what the future holds for Paul Pogba, Gareth Bale and a few others in a separate piece. For now, let’s take a close look at the Neymar-to-Barcelona speculation.
A familiar face dominates the summer news cycle
In recent weeks, the PSG star has missed practice and said that his favorite memory from his career was the 6-1 Champions League comeback he led Barcelona to (over PSG) in March ’17.
And those are just the most notable/recent developments from the player himself.
At this point, it’s the understatement of the summer to call this an unhappy marriage. The question is whether the divorce comes before or after the ’19-20 season.
Neymar to Barcelona
There’s a new report every day, if not every hour, about Neymar rejoining Barcelona. The biggest problem, for both parties, is the financial aspect.
Barcelona cannot afford to add a contract like Neymar’s without shedding multiple key pieces. PSG, for its part, is (understandably) unwilling to move a player for whom they paid over €220M in ’17 unless they get a ton in return.
It has been widely reported that Barcelona are hoping to pay £90M, plus any two of the following players: Philippe Coutinho, Ousmane Dembélé, Ivan Rakitic, Nelson Semedo and Malcom. That report follows speculation earlier in the week that Barca wanted to pay a similar sum plus Coutinho and Dembélé, without offering PSG a choice.
The Coutinho-Dembélé proposal – the one where PSG doesn’t choose who it gets – makes sense for Barcelona, but would be a huge gamble for the Parisians.
The value of Coutinho, 27, has to be one of the most divisive topics in Europe considering the contrast between his excellent form as recently as ’18 and his disastrous ’18-19 season.
Dembélé, on the other hand, is 22 and appears to have a tremendous future ahead if he can stay healthy. Unfortunately that’s a massive “if” after injuries have limited him to 20 appearances in La Liga this past season and 12 the year before.
No right answer
PSG is in an incredibly unenviable position. They can A) refuse to release Neymar and hope he keeps his antics to a minimum. Considering his actions both on and off the pitch in recent months, I can’t imagine him keeping the distractions to a minimum.
Or PSG can B) allow him to leave and try to recoup as much money as possible. Regardless of what the club is able to get this summer, if Neymar leaves after two seasons without any Champions League success – with this team’s payroll, losing in the round of 16 in ’17-18 and ’18-19 was an abject failure – his transfer in ’17 will have to go down as one of the worst ever (Coutinho right now is like, “oh yeah, hold my cerveja”)
If there’s one singular takeaway from this summer, it’s that no one has any business trying to predict how this all shakes out. But if I have to make a prediction, I’ll say Neymar ends up playing one more season in Paris.
Not worth the trouble
Barcelona has a wealth of options up top after signing Antoine Griezmann. Forcing yourself to find minutes and opportunities for Griezmann, Neymar, Lionel Messi and Luis Suárez strikes me as a completely unnecessary on-field headache, even if Neymar, Messi and Suarez all meshed well as recently as ’16-17. Adding Neymar for the money he will command would require some serious financial gymnastics by the Catalans. And forgive me for saying it would also create a sliiight chance of locker room drama.
Why risk that if you’re Barcelona? Especially when your squad was in a great position to go to the Champions League final (where it would have been heavily favored against Tottenham) and you have already added two world-class players – Griezmann and Frenkie de Jong — without any significant losses this summer.
However, I’d like to close by clarifying that I don’t think the fact there is a strong case against signing Neymar means it won’t happen.