If you do not see the seismic shifts in the landscape of modern football then you are simply not paying attention. Neymar’s world-record move to Paris Saint-Germain is an era-defining transfer. A deal that most never thought would happen and is now arguably the biggest transfer and a landmark in the history of the game.
Where does this deal leave PSG?
Paris Saint-Germain will be very excited about the deal and where they are. They have tried several different routes in their desperate quest to join Europe’s elite and have been countered at every turn. They drained Serie A of some of its prime talent (Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva, Javier Pastore, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Edinson Cavani etc) but fell flat, they signed veteran superstars (David Beckham) but got nowhere. Now they are signing a superstar in his prime for a world-record fee. They have arrived for sure.
PSG will now reassert their dominance in Ligue 1 after last year’s ‘difficult season’, equally aided by the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City, Real Madrid and others. The same clubs that have united to keep the Parisians out of the continental elite have now picked off Monaco’s young guns (Tiemoue Bakayoko, Bernardo Silva, Benjamin Mendy and Kylian Mbappe), installing them as the outright favorites to win the title. Their financial might and playing squad should now be far too good for their rivals and the domestic success a formality. Europe is what that matters and where they will measure themselves, as they have in recent seasons, but not with just hope but the expectation that they will make the semi-finals and the final.
There is something poetic too that it is Barcelona who are getting a taste of their own medicine. PSG were humiliated in European football’s greatest-ever comeback last season. Barca then tried to take Marco Verratti, their best player, away from them. The French side have not only stood up to that challenge and convinced the Italian to stay but also have fought back and taken the man responsible for that memorable night at the Camp Nou from their Catalan counterparts.
What does it mean for Barcelona?
Well, it means another season where Real Madrid have strengthened with the signings of Theo Hernandez, Dani Ceballos and Jesus Vallejo, while they have got weaker. The Catalans saw Madrid win La Liga for the first time in six years last season and there’s a feeling they may need to get used to it. Not only Madrid are getting stronger every season but they are also getting younger. Even if the Spanish champions miss out on Kylian Mbappe, the strategy is very clear, they want to buy all of Europe’s best young players. And they can afford to do so. With Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale, Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, Marcelo and Sergio Ramos, it is only natural to spend all your time and money recruiting for the future and simply enjoying the present.
On the other hand, the Camp Nou club is wracked by internal politics. The pipeline from La Masia to the first team is blocked which has resulted in the departure of several young players in recent seasons. In the transfer market, Barca have bought poorly while their rivals have recruited wisely and cheaply, and simply put, Barcelona have had less money to spend. However, with the record sale of Neymar, the Spanish giants are now loaded with cash and could just about attract any player in the world. But when you have the money to spend, you need to spend it wisely.
Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho is now odds-on to move to Spain and Sky Sports’ South American football expert Tim Vickery believes attacking midfielder is the ideal player to take on the Neymar role at the club, saying: “I have always seen Coutinho as a Neymar replacement.” Dortmund’s Ousmane Dembele is another name linked with a move to the Camp Nou and if reports in France and Italy are true, Barcelona have made a formal approach for the young French forward. Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann, Paulo Dybala, Eden Hazard and Dele Alli are other few names thrown around by the press. However, instead of finding ‘the next Neymar’, Barca should replicate their fierce rival’s strategy and build Lionel Messi’s last strong TEAM, which had the best midfield in the world. If they are successful in doing that there is no reason why they would not continue to add silverware.
What about Neymar? Move motivated by money?
Perhaps the forgotten man here, in the centre of this whirlwind of money, revenge and empire-building, is Neymar. The Brazilian superstar has a lot of work to do to convince people his world-record move isn’t motivated by money. He’s left behind one of the most famous sporting institutions in the world for a nouveau riche club and is expected to pocket around £30m every year in France. But to accuse him of being motivated by money is just lazy criticism and more than a little unfair.
He answered those critics in his official presentation on Friday:
“What I say to these people is they don’t know anything about my personal life. I was never motivated by money.
“If I was following the money, I would be somewhere else, with other clubs in other countries. I’m really sad that people still think that way and I’m glad that PSG believe in me.”
To understand the situation and, perhaps, the main reason behind his departure, let’s rewind back to that night in Barcelona…
At the end of the comeback, their hero leapt on to the advertising boards with the fans surging forward at his feet, still barely able to believe what they had just witnessed. He stood above them, fist raised, taking it in. From below, a match photographer, Santiago Garces, clicked a photo. Within two days, 70 million people had seen that picture of the night, which had become the most-viewed picture in Barca’s history.
“People say it’s the best anyone’s ever taken of Leo Messi.” ~ Santiago Garces
Leo Messi? Barcelona scored three times in seven minutes and 17 seconds. But it was not the Argentine international at the heart of them all, it was Neymar – curling in a superb free-kick, winning and taking a penalty and providing the delivery from which Sergio Roberto scored the 96th-minute winner. That was his eighth assist in the Champions League, and all of them had come from open play. He had led throughout responsibly, but the enduring image of the historic night was Messi. With Barca it almost always is.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) March 8, 2017
For a player with Neymar’s talent and quality, you have to feel for him for being a part of the same generation as Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. The Brazilian grew up idolising Robinho, but he was not going to make the same mistake. His career was designed to be taken step-by-step. There was no rush to move to Europe, and when he made the move four years ago, Barcelona was an obvious destination. He could develop in the shadow of Messi, and ease himself in gradually to the challenge. But in the long term, that shadow was not always going to be refreshing. He would want to be the main man and take the centre stage – the only way that he could get his hands on the Ballon d’Or. He was never going to win it if he was not even the outstanding player in his own team.
He has proven time and time again he can be the main man for the Brazil national team. Even on that historic night at Camp Nou, he was the man who made the difference. He showed he can take the responsibility and lead from the front when it matters the most. Paris Saint-Germain is the perfect club for the Brazilian to shine and maybe win the Ballon d’Or even with the presence of Messi and Ronaldo still playing. At the Parc des Princes, success (and failure) will be his own. PSG will be his team, players will be brought to get the best out of him and he will now be surrounded by his people, friends and countrymen.
Although La Liga is hailed as a league with a much, much higher ceiling than Ligue 1, he still is moving to a club that has always shown signs that they want to reach the summit of world football through their investments. The domestic league now should be a formality for the Parisians, the real test will be in Europe. Over the years, PSG have been left disappointed with their lack of progression in the Champions League. It is the one competition that the owners want to win for all the money that they have invested. With Neymar joining them, it would give him something to aim towards which would lead to extra motivation to try and go all the way. He has been successful and won it all at Barcelona but this is an entirely a new challenge. A chance of creating history where there isn’t much, and there is no better club to do at than PSG.
By conquering Europe with PSG, it would only cement Neymar’s legacy as one of the best Brazilian players of all time. At Barcelona, he would have won trophies but remained just another face in the crowd. Paris Saint-Germain is the real challenge. The money involved is huge but it is irrelevant and isn’t the motivating factor. The drive to succeed and lead a team basically on his own is the main objective. For all parties involved, this transfer only makes sense.
This article is written by Shantanu Ambekar, you can follow him on Twitter at @ShantanuAmbekar. What are your thoughts? Let us know by dropping a comment via our comments box below. Make sure you follow us on Twitter, Google+, Instagram and like us on Facebook.