NEYMAR has decided to leave Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain, but why is he going to swap one of the world’s most successful clubs for a team that finished second in Ligue 1 last season and has never won the Champions League? We take a look…
After weeks of speculation, Gerard Pique appeared to ease Barcelona fears when he posted a picture next to Neymar with the caption, “He stays”.
Was that the final word? Had Pique heard that directly from Neymar? Not quite. He has since backtracked, saying: “It’s not official. And it’s not for me to say. It’s a personal opinion from the conversation I had with him and my intuition.”
Role at Barcelona
When you are part of a superstar attacking trio you might expect some sacrifice for the good of the team, but Neymar may feel he is giving up more than his teammates.
Having hit the 20-goal mark in each of the prior two seasons, he scored just 13 last term. Stationed on the left flank, he was instead tasked with creating chances for Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, who combined to score 66 goals.
He was also asked to track back – unlike Messi – taking on what Balague described as a “selfless role for the team”. Are these grounds for complaint? Sky Sports Spanish football expert Terry Gibson does not think so.
“At the age of 25, he thinks it is his time to win the Ballon d’Or.”
But Messi’s place atop the Barcelona hierarchy looks secure, especially after agreeing a new four-year extension this summer.
If Neymar wants to lead a team and win a Ballon d’Or – like Messi at Barca or Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid – he is unlikely to get the chance at the Nou Camp in the immediate future.
But will his chances improve if he joins PSG? “As long as Messi is still playing and Ronaldo is still knocking in the goals, how will he win it?” asks Gibson.
“PSG would have to win the Champions League and he would have to be the main player, and I would still put PSG quite a way down the list to win the Champions League even with Neymar.”
Riches on offer
There are also financial considerations. Neymar signed a new Barca contract last summer but PSG would significantly improve those terms.
L’Equipe most recently claimed he will sign a six-year deal worth £500,000-a-week in Paris, which would represent a large pay rise.
The prestige of the league, his commitment to Barca and the chance for trophies are all valid factors to consider but cold, hard cash is difficult to ignore.
Gibson says: “I know people are saying he wants to step out of the shadow of Messi and be the main man somewhere, but I can only think it’s about the money. He could have killed off this speculation a long time ago and now it appears he is waiting to see if PSG can keep within the Financial Fair Play rules to pay what he wants and the buyout.”