Neymar should never have left Barcelona. It appeared a strange decision at the time given how integral the Brazilian was to the Catalan club’s success, but at least the argument could have been made that Paris Saint-Germain represented something new, something to make his own. Somewhere to step out from underneath the shadow of Lionel Messi.
Since then, however, since his world record £200 million switch to the French capital, Neymar has found himself in a different sort of shadow, perpetually covered by a cloud of controversy. This led to a moment of reckoning this summer where in the space of just a few days player and club seemed to make the decision to part ways.
A return to Barcelona seemed inevitable with PSG open to the idea of selling their most troublesome superstar and Neymar longing for the embrace of his comfort zone again. However, the thing that many believed led Neymar to Paris in the first place has seemingly quashed his hopes of leaving – money.
Recent reports claim Barcelona, having already signed Frenkie de Jong and Antoine Griezmann for big money this summer, just can’t afford Neymar. A Frankenstein monster of a proposal, which would have seen one, two or maybe even three Barca players included in a cash-plus-player deal, has been mooted, but that also appears to be a non-starter. Neymar is stuck at PSG.
Instead of sulking, though, the 27-year-old must accept his situation and set about making up for the past two years.
Top of his to-do list must be the restoration of his now toxic reputation.
Barcelona were his only possible destination this summer partly because they were the only elite club that still trusts him as a professional. Neymar can’t allow this to fester any longer.
There is no doubting the ability of the Brazilian. Messi is perhaps the only player in the current game who can claim a higher level of technical ability than Neymar right now. His attitude, however, has been questioned and this is where the 27-year-old must pick things up. Neymar has cut a distracted figure for quite some time.
Another season like the last one, which saw Neymar’s commitment to the cause at PSG widely questioned and ended with him striking a supporter at the Coupe de France final, will surely leave Barcelona also drop that trust. If Neymar still wants to leave PSG he must strive to achieve his original objective at the club or find himself trapped next summer just as he is this summer.
In leaving Barcelona, Neymar failed to understand the support system he had for him at Camp Nou. Everything was set up for him to succeed there. The Brazilian might have seen Messi as a cloud in the sky restricting the light from reaching him, but in hindsight the Argentinean played a role in lifting up Neymar into the sun in the first place.
PSG never had that sort of support system for Neymar. They had an expensively assembled team full of world class talent, but Neymar had more heaped on his shoulders than anyone else. He hasn’t responded well to that, which is somewhat surprising given the pressure he is burdened with when playing for Brazil.
The environment in Paris hasn’t been good for Neymar, but the problems he now faces are largely of his own making. Returning to the fold after so publicly agitating for a move will be difficult, but PSG, and the football world, will embrace him again if he gets his head down and starts to find his best form again.
It’s true that Neymar never should have left Barcelona. It’s also true that a return to Camp Nou this summer would have been best for his career. Now that this possibility appears to have vanished, though, he must consider the way forward even if he is forced to stay in the same place.