Neymar’s future was the subject of constant speculation over the summer, with the Brazilian linked to a move to both Real Madrid and a return to Barcelona.
Neither moves transpired, and Neymar will be at PSG until January at the very earliest.
Intriguingly, Neymar’s odds for a move back to Barcelona apparently shorten by the day, and with the Brazilian clearly far from happy at Parc Des Princes, it seems as though he will be going back from where he came.
His status as a £200m man, despite his lack of a World Cup winner’s medal, has obviously been a psychological burden for a man who knows that time is running out to address both his international and club-level shortcomings.
However, despite lacking the same chemistry with PSG that he enjoyed at Barcelona, there are several standout reasons as to why he should stay in the French capital.
- Title Future Safe at PSG
Firstly, and foremostly, PSG offers stability and a guaranteed place in the starting XI, and in becoming such an expensive asset, Neymar is very much a victim of his own success. There are precious few other clubs that could offer Neymar everything he wants, while also restructuring their wage bill just to accommodate him.
Other perennial winners, such as Juventus and Manchester City, have also been mooted as candidates. However, despite being a a popular choice in just about every match they play, those clubs’ respective leagues could well prove too physical for him. In any case, neither City nor Juventus have made an optimal start to their title defences, which should further deter him.
Then there is the possibility of Neymar’s only other realistic suitors going through transitional periods over the next few years – if they aren’t already. Real Madrid, for instance, are still recovering from a dreadful 2018/19 season, having failed spectacularly to build on 2017/18. In response, Real went ballistic in the transfer market, with Eden Hazard (at 100m euros) being the marquee signing of a very busy summer.
With so much new talent in the Real squad, Neymar would be a risking a place in the starting XI every week. In a sign that the ‘Galacticos’ are still gelling as a unit, PSG also thrashed them 3-0 on the opening matchday of the 2019/20 Champions League group stage, perhaps giving Neymar some first-hand food for thought.
- Champions League 19/20 Could be PSG’s Best Chance Yet
While already a Champions League winner with Barcelona, his aim is now to join an elite group of players that have won the prestigious trophy with two different clubs in different countries. PSG’s continued lack of a Champions League trophy this century is truly frustrating, given the sheer volume of investment.
A front three of Cavani, Mbappe and Neymar should be reaching the semi-finals of the Champions League every year at least, but with four English clubs locking out the semi-final spots in both European competitions last season, PSG fans are under no illusions. The heavy presence of Spanish clubs in the latter stages is also a major obstacle for PSG, even if they have – as already noted – humiliated a Spanish giant in this season’s edition.
If the Champions League is indeed all that Neymar is holding out for, there must surely be a way he can covertly reserve his energy in Ligue 1 games, which PSG should win consistently – even with a squad that is only operating at about 70-80% its full throttle.
A PSG side reserving its best for the Champions League should have no trouble ploughing through the group stage at least. Having already scorched Real Madrid and avoided conceding an away goal to them, Club Brugge and Galatasaray should prove to be easily-negotiated obstacles – particularly at home.
Significantly, PSG are still unbeaten in Champions League group stage home games this decade, with December 2004 being the last time they suffered such an indignity. The last two seasons have also seen them win all group stage home games against the two lowest-seeded sides in the group, and while victories against such opponents seem insignificant, the foundation must always be there for a strong knockout run thereafter.
3&4. World Cup Hopes & A Wholesome Legacy
While Ligue 1 is a far less competitive league than La Liga or the Premier League, winning trophies is a habit. So too is dealing with the pressure of playing in a tournament of superlative stature, at both club and international level.
Whether victory is forthcoming or not, experience counts for everything, and with Neymar now being a veteran of two World Cup campaigns, he knows that 2022 will be his time to combine the winning feeling with his now-vast experience of international football.
Given how it will disrupt the conventional European football schedule, Qatar 2022 will be a tough tournament for the usual favourites – assuming Brazil qualify in the first place as expected.
Even in winter, acclimatising to the desert climate will be difficult, and this is something that is open to exploitation from someone who knows how to win, and still has the legs to cash the goods the brain is demanding. Neymar, by 2022, will still be firmly in that category, but his ability to persist through all adversities can only be nurtured in this now-testing spell with PSG.
By that point, his vast experience and mental resilience – even if not tangibly rewarded – could still be put to good use at Parc Des Princes. With mass investment comes some fearsome youth talent, and despite having the ability to sulk like few others, Neymar’s natural competitive streak will provide a good example to emerging talents over the next few years.
- Warm Welcome Not Guaranteed at Nou Camp
Barcelona are his likeliest suitors, and while it is a move that makes a lot of sense, there is the potential for a myriad of problems. Naturally, from a playing perspective, he would be a welcome inclusion in a squad full of now-aging serial winners, but there is still the question of how he could reintegrate amongst the Blaugranes’ XI.
Lionel Messi has already spoken with dismay at Barcelona’s failed recapture of Neymar. Although Messi himself may well find himself joining the expected exodus to the MLS in the early 2020s, Neymar’s presence may be more resented than welcomed amongst those who value Messi as much as the club itself.
That would especially be the case if Neymar’s reacquaintance with the Blaugranes in any way hastened Messi’s departure, or forced others – like Luis Suarez and Arturo Vidal – into seeing that as a signal to move on. Too many leavers at once will only disrupt Barcelona’s indomitable spirit, and that is not the legacy Neymar ultimately wants.