There should be a long line of clubs lining up to sign Neymar from Paris Saint-Germain this summer, but despite being one of the most recognizable footballers in the world – and one with an incredible goalscoring record to justify this billing – the Brazil striker has become the superstar no one seems to want.
Financial realities and changing footballing philosophies have conspired to make signing the 30-year-old something that makes little or no sense to any club that could afford it.
Due to the terms of the three-year contract Neymar signed at Parc des Princes 12 months ago, an automatic 12-month extension to his contract will be triggered on July 1, so it would appear he is committed to the Champions League. France until his mid 30s.
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But it has become an open secret in the game that Neymar – still the most expensive player in the world after his 222 million euro ($264 million) transfer from Barcelona in 2017 – is available on loan or a permanent transfer during this transfer window, with sources telling ESPN that PSG would happily offload their €700,000-a-week ($730,000) salary due to the financial burden of paying Kylian Mbappe – who himself signed a new three-year deal last month after appearing set for a free transfer to Real Madrid – and Lionel Messi to be at the club.
Despite the enormous wealth of PSG’s Qatari owners, the club must still project the image of being run as a viable business, so cutting the wage bill is a necessity, but Neymar’s fitness record over recent seasons and his rocky relationship with the team’s two former coaches, Thomas Tuchel and Mauricio Pochettino, are also factors in PSG’s willingness to listen to the player’s offers.
Sources have told ESPN that Pochettino became extremely frustrated with what he perceived to be the soft treatment of Neymar by the club’s hierarchy when the former Tottenham Hotspur manager wanted to impose tougher discipline and introduce tougher rules on off-road driving. Tuchel, meanwhile, struggled to get the best out of the player after taking a candid and honest approach to motivating him.
Neymar’s contribution on the pitch over the past three years has also been a disappointment. He made just 55 Ligue 1 appearances in three seasons, scoring 35 goals in that span. Despite helping PSG reach the Champions League final in 2020, where Tuchel’s side lost 1-0 to Bayern Munich in Lisbon, Neymar has never really been the talisman of this competition he was to become when he arrived from Barcelona five years ago.
So it’s clear to see why PSG are ready to bring him forward, especially now that Mbappe and Messi are above him at the club when it comes to star billing. But while it’s easy to argue why PSG can thrive without Neymar – it helps when you have Mbappe and Messi in the squad – the lack of an obvious destination for the Brazilian is a reflection of the state. of the game today and how it has become the symbol of another era.
At 30, Neymar is still young enough to have at least four more years at the top level and his goalscoring record is incredible, despite all his injury problems. Since arriving in Europe in 2013, when he joined Barcelona from Santos, Neymar has scored 205 goals in 330 appearances for Barca and PSG, along with 136 additional assists. He also scored 74 goals in 119 games for Brazil – only Pelé, with 77, scored more goals for the five-time World Cup winners.
Neymar’s misfortune is that his track record pales in comparison to those of Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, the two modern greats who have always overshadowed him, so he may not be getting the recognition his talents deserve. But Messi and Ronaldo have also been more consistent, fitter and less affected by off-field distractions than Neymar, and his own reputation has been tarnished. While Messi and Ronaldo have achieved worldwide fame, Neymar is still seen as the party-loving flair player who can infuriate fans, coaches and team-mates with his approach to the game.
There is still a match-winning player in Neymar, which makes it even more surprising that PSG are struggling to find a club to get him off their hands. But with the modern game requiring every player to work harder than ever, both in possession and out of possession, Neymar’s inability or unwillingness to contribute defensively makes him a luxury the best teams can do without.
Manchester City could afford to pay Neymar’s salary, but he wouldn’t meet Pep Guardiola’s requirements for a player. Manchester United would see huge commercial value in signing Neymar, but while they have appealed to the club in recent years, the determination to refocus on football under new manager Erik ten Hag means Neymar is the wrong player at the moment. bad time. It’s a similar story for Liverpool and Bayern Munich – Neymar just wouldn’t fit in – while major Italian clubs such as AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus couldn’t afford it.
Barcelona have always been linked with a decision to bring Neymar back to Camp Nou – where he helped the club win a fifth Champions League title in 2014-15 – but the financial situation makes such a move impossible to conceive. As for Real Madrid, having failed to sign Mbappe, it would be a humiliation to help PSG pay for the French striker’s new contract by taking Neymar off his hands. Chelsea, under new ownership following the sale of Roman Abramovich to a group led by Los Angeles Dodgers co-owner Todd Boehly, is the club currently linked with Neymar, but the team have other priorities and it would be a decision. interesting from Tuchel, now. Chelsea coach, to decide to work with Neymar again.
So, PSG and Neymar could end up stuck with each other in an ongoing relationship that doesn’t work for either of them. He’s too good a player for his career to drift aimlessly to an unsatisfactory conclusion, but if you’re too expensive and don’t fit into the modern game, it’s hard to see a way out for Neymar and PSG.