Where has it all Gone Wrong for Neymar?


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Ipswich Town
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Back in August 2017, Neymar made a world-record £222m move from Barcelona to Paris St-Germain. Fast forward to July 2019, and the man who still stands as the world’s most expensive signing is absent from the first day of pre-season.

The Brazilian forward has made no secret of the fact that he wants to return to his Catalan home, but why has Neymar had such turbulent and torrid time at the Ligue 1 champions, and what would be the ramifications for a return to Spain?

PSG Squad Chemistry an Issue

Exactly what his move from Barcelona to Paris represented is down to personal taste. For the optimists at least, it was the type of transfer that proved the drama inherent in football is as alive as ever. So too did it promise the sight of a team that could dominate the European scene for years to come, and possibly even overtake Real Madrid’s high-tally of 13 European titles.

Where Neymar himself is concerned, it was a new challenge, and an opportunity to become the true MVP of a top club. Barcelona, for instance, had Lionel Messi as the individual champion of the club, and it also is a club with a real sense of legacy. PSG, on the other hand, has a feel of a new project with plenty of room for experimentation. In turn, Neymar’s chances of winning a Ballon d’Or would potentially increase, with nobody other than Kylian Mbappe to potentially overshadow him.

Of course, that is not how events have transpired. There are a lot of big contracts in that dressing room, and egos to go with them. Neymar clearly thrives on a strong sense of squad chemistry, and when a squad is expensively assembled and forced to play together, it is often at the price of empathy.

As such, any slump in form from Neymar has always been longer-lived than expected. It is ultimately this, rather than an overnight loss of skill from Neymar, which has led to some calling his PSG move a classic ‘flop’.

There is also the presence of home-grown wonder kid Kylian Mbappe to overshadow Neymar. The Brazilian clearly enjoys superstar status, but there seems to be no realistic club at which he could be the undisputed MVP for years. Those where he would certainly be the jewel in the crown cannot possibly afford his wage, this too can only drain from his sense of belonging to a club.

Would Neymar fit back into Barcelona’s Squad?

While he risks re-entering Lionel Messi’s shadow if he returns to Barcelona, there are plenty of reasons to believe that Neymar can avoid such a fate the second time around.

The primary reason is a simple one. Earlier this year, the skilled core of Barcelona’s squad – namely, Luis Suarez, Sergio Busquets, Gerard Pique, Arturo Vidal, and even Messi himself – was shown up to be the aging figure it now is. The moment of reckoning was, of course, the night of Barcelona's elimination from the Champions League.

Certainly, as this blog post explains in the aftermath of May's Champions League semi-finals, they stood no chance against the peak powers of Liverpool men like Sadio Mane and Georginio Wijnaldum, going down 4-0 at Anfield with barely a whimper, and suffering their worst European night since losing to underdogs AC Milan by the same scoreline in the 1994 final.

In addition to this, Philippe Coutinho looks very likely to depart the Catalan club sooner rather than later, truly blunting what will soon be an attacking setup in transition. On top of this, effective leadership from Pique, Busquets and Vidal onto the younger members of the squad will be undermined by the waning of said 'core'.

Ultimately, the signing of Neymar, even when offset by a Coutinho deal potentially worth at least £80m, would only partially address both his and Barcelona’s current respective predicaments.

Furthermore, Ernesto Valverde’s signing of Neymar would be a sure sign of him moving to prepare for Barcelona’s life after Messi, and to some fans of the Argentine maestro, it would constitute a vote of no confidence in the five-time Ballon d’Or winner – and a betrayal of the club’s tangible sense of family.

Can Neymar Outstrip Messi and Ronaldo?

Five Ballon d’Or awards is the target to beat. Neymar still has time on his side, and it is not impossible for him to at least win it two or three times if he imposes himself. Sadly, that will not happen until he truly finds a home where he can thrive and play consistently well.

There is also a danger that playing for a PSG side with no real challengers in Ligue 1 will affect him for the worse in the long-term. While he may win an endless array of league titles in Paris, Neymar has to endure both the glorious and the tough times to become a ‘complete’ player, and do so with ultimate professionalism.

Failing to turn up for training is the wrong way to deal with any internal problems, and the last thing Barcelona need is man who can potentially be a disruptive influence when he is unsettled. The move could work, but there are firm lines that Valverde must draw to ensure that Neymar’s apparent love for Barcelona truly is better the second time around.

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