After several years of flirting, the feeling that Real Madrid and Neymar are destined to unite their paths sooner rather than later is spreading with each passing day, not just amongst Los Blancos supporters but throughout the wider footballing world. The only remaining unknown is whether the player, whom Florentino Perez has been infatuated with since 2011, will arrive this summer, in 2019 or not at all.
When the player’s father contacted the Spanish giants to offer the opportunity to sign his son, in Madrid there was a very different situation to what there is now. Back in early December, Los Blancos were already facing an uphill battle in LaLiga, they had finished second in their Champions League group and were preparing for the Club World Cup. Karim Benzema was being constantly whistled by his own fans, Gareth Bale was still yet to reappear from yet another injury layoff and Cristiano Ronaldo had hit the worst run of form in his entire career in the Spanish capital.
The Portuguese star had just two goals in 10 league games, but nine in six in the Champions League. He was disappointed that the promise of a contract extension hadn’t been fulfilled and seriously considered forcing his exit at the end of the 2017/18 season.
This was something that, although the club will never acknowledge it, wasn’t seen as a disaster in Madrid.
The plan was clear, if at 33 years old and with a significant decrease in his averaging goal-scoring record, a majorly disillusioned Cristiano Ronaldo insisted on wanting to leave, they would let him provided Neymar was attainable. With Bale and Benzema in place, there was a feeling in Madrid that the Brazilian was the best possible candidate to replace the veteran.
Cristiano changes the plan:
Football is stubborn and Ronaldo is even more so. With the arrival of 2018 he jumped into a telephone booth and re-emerged with the superman cape that would transform his season. He has 17 goals in 12 matches in 2018 with a superhuman average of 1.41 goals per match, he’s returned with the sort of energy that many believed he could no longer access.
As such, the situation has changed. Whether he’s 30 years or old or 300 years old, Real Madrid will improve Ronaldo’s contract simply because the team lives from his energy, they depend on him and will do for as long as he can continue at this level. The club must give him what he asks for, he insisted that he will not accept any less in salary than Neymar and Messi, and he will get it.
The question is how two superstars like Ronaldo and Neymar could coexist if the signing of the Brazilian goes ahead in the summer. From an economic standpoint, two players earning more than 35 million euros as a net salary is a big risk for the overall wage bill at the club, although high earners would be sold. From a footballing perspective, there are no incompatibilities. Neymar is a creator and Ronaldo is a finisher.
What about the management of egos? It’s difficult to imagine Neymar accepting a secondary role like he had at Barcelona with Lionel Messi. As for Ronaldo, it’s not just hard to imagine him taking on such a role, it’s simply impossible.