Move was meant to lead PSG to Champions League glory and Neymar to the Ballon dOr. Now a messy divorce beckons
This wasnt how the scenario was supposed to play out. Neither for Paris Saint-Germain, nor for Neymar. When the French club brought the Brazilian superstar to Ligue 1 for a world-record transfer fee two years ago, each of the actors had their own storyline in mind.
For PSG, grabbing Neymar from Barcelona showed intent. Here was a powerful statement. Not only were PSG not a selling club they had previously resisted overtures from Barcelona for the Italian midfielder Marco Verratti now here they were signing one of the most exciting talents on the planet and, moreover, tempting him away from one of European footballs powerhouses. Neymar would be the final piece in an expensively assembled jigsaw (the 18 year-old Kylian Mbapp would join PSG shortly after), built to win the Champions League the holy grail for Qatari owners only partially sated by the teams domestic dominance.
Neymar, then 25, had won La Liga twice and the Champions League with Barcelona, forming a formidable strike trio with Lionel Messi and Luis Surez. But therein lay the problem for the Brazilian forward. However skilful, however decisive think back to his performance against PSG in that amazing 6-1 Champions League comeback victory Neymar at Barcelona would always be in Messis shadow and therefore unlikely to garner the individual prizes such as the Ballon dOr that he craves. The switch to PSG would see Neymar become the main man. The team would play for him and if he could lead PSG to their first Champions League triumph, surely then the awards would follow. It was a great plot and entirely feasible, on paper.
Today, though, this football love affair seems to be heading towards a bitter end. PSG failed to reach even the quarter-finals of the Europes most-prized cup competition in the past two seasons and Neymar, after a bright start and despite scoring a bucketful of goals, always seemed to be absent when the big games came around (for example, he was injured and missed both matches against Manchester United last season). And although Neymar was initially adored by PSG fans, he has been overtaken in the popularity stakes by Mbapp, still only 20, still on the rise and a native of the Paris suburbs. In other words, hes one of theirs.
Mbapp, top scorer at PSG last season with 33 Ligue 1 goals from 29 matches, is surely, right now, a better bet as a future Ballon dOr winner than Neymar. And if forced to choose between the two, PSG would clearly back the Frenchman. Which all leaves the Brazilian in a quandary. What to do?