Social media isn’t always the best medium for transfer chatter. In the space of around 48 hours last week, Twitter had circulated contrasting claims that Neymar had agreed to sign for Paris Saint-Germain, had agreed to stay at Barcelona, was on a plane to France and was on a plane to the United States. Nobody ever got the full story on social media.
However, while some of the edges around the tale might have been blurred, there appears to be genuine weight to reports PSG are willing to activate the £200 million release clause in Neymar’s contract, with the Brazilian open to the idea of leaving Barcelona for the French champions. There is now too much smoke without fire.
This would more than double the world transfer record just a year after Manchester United smashed it with the £89 million signing of Paul Pogba. A new precedent was set with the transfer of the Frenchman from Juventus to Old Trafford, but Neymar’s move to PSG would see the market reach another level altogether.
It would be the modern equivalent of Zinedine Zidane’s move to Real Madrid back in the summer of 2001. He was the best player in the world at the time, with the £45 million paid to Juventus obliterating any transfer that had been made up until then. It also established Real Madrid as the club we know today – the Galacticos.
PSG are attempting a similar thing, with the Ligue 1 outfit also reportedly making a move for Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez. Their quest for world domination stalled after the exit of Zlatan Ibrahimovic last summer, but they now have renewed ambition. They see themselves as the Galacticos of modern football.
Of course, whether a move to PSG would be best for Neymar is debatable. At Barcelona, he is the best player in the world in-waiting. Once Lionel Messi finally fades from the inevitable effects of ageing (assuming he is in fact mortal), the Brazilian will be the main man at one of the biggest clubs in the world. There is a succession plan in place for him.
Neymar might argue that at PSG he would have the freedom to mould an entire club around his own identity. Zidane’s arrival at Real Madrid proved to be a catalyst for a generation of success at the Santiago Bernabeu, winning the Champions League in his first season there. That could prove the precedent for Neymar.
Up until now, the Brazilian has appeared quite content with playing the supporting act to Messi’s headliner. In fact, the two players are close friends. Messi wouldn’t be the player he is now without Neymar, and Neymar wouldn’t be the player he is now without Messi. Their relationship is a mutually beneficial one.
Yet some claim Neymar, the most marketable player in world football, is ready to step out from his teammate’s shadow. Taking into account that Messi has only just turned 30 this summer, the Brazilian has a few more years to wait before he can be considered king at Camp Nou. And at 25, Neymar might be feeling the pressure of his own time constraints.
From the perspective of Barcelona, Neymar’s exit would say a lot about the direction in which the club is heading at the moment. The deterioration of the Catalans at boardroom level has manifested itself in their performances on the pitch of late, but the departure of Neymar would illustrate just how damaged things are at Camp Nou. There would be considerable fallout.
Sections of the Spanish press remain confident that Neymar will stay at Barcelona for at least another season, but whatever happens, this summer will likely go down as a watershed for the Brazilian. He faces the choice of either being the next Messi or the next Zidane.