Whatever was uttered by Neymar and his father at the time of his €222m move to Paris Saint-Germain, in terms of the switch being the catalyst for a Ballon d’Or win, we can and should call it out for what it was.
In the Brazilian’s world, money talks, and PSG were willing to go well above and beyond what any other club were willing to offer, once it was known that one of the world’s best players was available. Individual awards would’ve been well down the list of priorities.
Barcelona were probably a little naïve in thinking it would never happen, and almost two years on from Neymar’s leaving, there’s still not been a transfer that’s come anywhere close to it in terms of the fee. It was a move that literally changed the landscape where transfers are concerned.
Unable to accept that he would be in Lionel Messi’s shadow for the period in which he remained at the Blaugrana, Neymar was ill-advisedly told to ply his trade in a markedly inferior league to the Spanish top flight.
Of course he’s done well there. He’s playing for a team with a bottomless pit of money and who are so far ahead of the domestic competition that it really doesn’t make France’s Ligue 1 a competition at all.
Injuries coming at vital times in both seasons that he’s been at the Parisiens mean he’s also ended up missing the matches that, potentially, he could’ve been the difference-maker in. The truly barnstorming big European nights where Neymar would be up against something like the same level of professional excellence.
We saw on Tuesday night that PSG can cope relatively well without him, but Manchester United aren’t the driving force in Europe that they once were, even taking into account their renaissance under Ole Gunnar Solksjaer.
He was missed, just as he was a year ago when he missed the return tie against Real Madrid, but it’s debatable that, even if fit for later rounds, Neymar can inspire his team to glory in Europe, thereby dashing his hopes of a Ballon d’Or.
But back to Real Madrid. Things have gone quiet on a move to the Santiago Bernabeu, but Florentino Perez is known to still be interested in acquiring Neymar’s services.
As we get further into the season and nearer to the summer window, we can expect the Madrid media to ramp up their campaign to bring the Brazilian to the capital.
Perez is desperate to get one over on Barcelona and buy a player who will likely land them the Champions League again, and potentially win himself a Ballon d’Or in the process.
🌍 Latest Ballon d'Or 2019 Odds:— Bookies UK (@bookies_uk) February 13, 2019
🇦🇷 Messi - 1/1
🇵🇹 Ronaldo - 3/1
🇧🇷 Neymar - 4/1
🇫🇷 Mbappe - 9/1
🇫🇷 Griezmann - 13/1
🇦🇷 Aguero - 17/1
🇪🇬 Salah - 17/1
🥇 Who's your money on? #BallonDor
Frankly, it’s a move he has to make if he wants to land the biggest individual prize on offer, but if he’s offered more money to stay in Paris, don’t be surprised for him to eek out another 12 months there either.
Kylian Mbappe has run him close in terms of who the real star of the team is, and some would say the World Cup-winning youngster has actually usurped the Brazilian precisely because his country sit atop the footballing tree.
A move to Real would actually put him in direct competition with another Brazilian wonderkind, Vinicius Junior, for the superstar role at the Santiago Bernabeu.
The youngster is still a little raw but is learning quickly and has already become the darling of the Los Blancos faithful.
Rodrygo Goes, Vinicius’ partner-in-crime for the Brazilian U20 side, will sign this summer, so if Neymar does want the Ballon d’Or if he signs for Madrid, he’ll need to work hard for it.
Mbappe has overshadowed him at times because there’s nothing fancy about his play, just good, honest graft - something that both Vinicius and Rodrygo are renowned for, and what’s been missing from Neymar’s play in the French capital for long periods.
Other than Real, Barcelona are, potentially, the only other La Liga team that could afford him.
It’s been heavily reported that the player has been incessant in his desire to get his old team-mates back on side in order to help facilitate a Camp Nou return.
Well liked in the dressing room, Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Gerard Pique have all been public in their support of a reunion, but, unlike Real, there are a lot of questions that need to be addressed before even a hint of a Barcelona move comes to fruition.
For a start, president Josep Maria Bartomeu, after suggesting he would welcome the player back with open arms last April, then announced in October of 2018 that there were no plans to re-hire him.
There’s a school of thought among some board members, and certainly amongst the fan base, that once a player leaves of his own accord, he’s made his decision and intentions clear. On that basis alone, he is not welcome.
However, and here’s the rub, Barca haven’t won the Champions League since he left, and there’s no denying that he gave them an extra edge alongside Suarez and Messi.
Can the Catalans swallow their pride and massage their finances enough to take him back to a place that he was wrong to leave in the first place, and, coincidentally, where he now has the best chance of winning a longed-for Ballon d’Or?
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