Between the 222-million-euro price tag, the protestations of La Liga’s chief and Barcelona fans’ confusion, Neymar’s move to Paris Saint-Germain has been anything but simple or expected. As the dust settles, how will the Brazilian’s brave step out from the MSN affect the division he is leaving behind?
What it means for Barcelona and La Liga
After another of La Liga’s top clubs benefitted from the huge buying power of the Premier League, as Real Madrid picked up huge fees for both Alvaro Morata and Danilo this summer, the huge financial power of Paris Saint-Germain promises to be more destructive than constructive for Ernesto Valverde and Barcelona.
Whereas Zinedine Zidane can look to strengthen his squad with a considerable transfer budget, one which can reportedly turn the head of Monaco star Kylian Mbappe, the 200-million-euro outlay that PSG are prepared to stump up for Neymar promises far less value for money for the selling club. Not least down to the fact that others can raise their asking prices to an absolute premium, knowing that Barcelona are in a weak bargaining position. They need reinforcements, and fast. The Spanish Super Cup is rapidly approaching, which may well mean that time is money - and plenty of it.
Luis Suarez, Neymar and Lionel Messi have been the key to papering over the cracks for Barcelona, not least during Luis Enrique’s final season in charge. An identity crisis, mixed with an unbalanced squad that lacked depth, ultimately resulted in disappointment. A disappointment that may be tough to move away from with part of the Blaugrana’s famous trident switching his allegiances and making the leap to Paris.
Perhaps nobody will be as disappointed as La Liga’s president. Javier Tebas was very outspoken with his views about PSG’s transfer movements, presumably down to the fact the deal will be a rather large blow to his division’s reputation - but Neymar’s decision seems to be more down to personal ambition than collective.
PSG offers Neymar a new challenge, a chance to link up with a Brazilian contingent that includes his good friend Dani Alves, and an opportunity to aim for the Champions League with a club that backs that objective to the hilt financially. What’s more is that he will be the poster boy, without the overbearing presence of Messi. The spotlight is now his to hog.
Paulo Dybala and Philippe Coutinho have been the two main targets mentioned throughout the summer, especially after Marco Verratti announced his satisfaction to stay with PSG. While one, or indeed both of them, are required to strengthen Barcelona’s front line in Neymar’s absence, the Brazilian appears to be a slightly flawed option. Buying offensive players ignores the lack of balance that the Blaugrana suffered in 2016/2017.
Coutinho has a knack for the spectacular, but can also play a deeper role, enjoying being heavily involved in play. For Liverpool, he is the star. At Camp Nou, he would have to be happy to play a more supporting role, one that relies on neat interplay in the final third and a willingness to sacrifice himself when required for the cause. Playing in Messi’s shadow is arguably the reason that Neymar chose to move on to pastures new - with it unlikely that Coutinho will want to slot into the same position.
Dybala is a little more in the Barcelona mould. Described as having shades of Lionel Messi about his play by former Juventus teammate Dani Alves, it is tough to avoid the direct comparisons to his compatriot. Gifted with a supreme left foot, but more comfortable in a central position, bringing in the Juventus star could usher in a re-think in terms of the 4-3-3 that has become synonymous with the modern Barcelona.
Across both Serie A and Juve’s trip to the Champions League final, Dybala showed why he has many fans and neutrals weak at the knees. His close control, creativity, range of passing and skilful nature makes for a compelling watch, with his set-piece threat and finishing adding a clinical edge to an exciting player. One with a better temperament than Neymar, too.
Mbappe: A shared aim?
One thing that both Barcelona and Real Madrid have in common is that they could easily find room for Kylian Mbappe in their plans for the new La Liga season. While Zidane may be more cautious with his use of the Frenchman, owing to the fact that he will likely keep his front three of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale intact, Ernesto Valverde will be able to offer the -year-old regular minutes as a key member of the starting eleven.
He may not quite have the same swagger and slaloming tendencies of Neymar, who stepped his game up to a new level last season, but Mbappe has shown flashes of a very well-rounded forward. He has the pace to stretch defences and beat players, coupled with the neat technical ability and audacity to round them inventively. He is the golden boy, the one talent that may threaten to fill the considerable boots of the outgoing Brazilian wide man. Should Real Madrid nip Barcelona to the bud and snare the Monaco talent, this summer will go down as one of the worst in recent memory at Camp Nou.