Media reports that Neymar is open to extending his contract with PSG seem hard to believe considering his strong desire to leave last summer. When looked at objectively, this move makes a lot of sense.
Reuniting with good friends Messi and Suarez under the sun of Barcelona would be a dream on a personal level. In sporting terms, the Qatari-backed PSG looks like the one with more chances of success in the short-term.
It is approaching five years since a young Neymar won his first and only Champions League with Barcelona. That victory helped him finish in third place for the Balon d’Or award that season. Since then, he finished third once more in 2017 but never come close to taking home the prize for himself.
A player like Neymar lives for this kind of recognition. In 2015, the world was ready for him to take over from Messi and Ronaldo. This has not happened. Instead, the player has been left behind. The Guardian’s end of year list for the top 100 footballers in the world in 2019 had the great Neymar at a lowly 31.
If Neymar is to get back where he knows he belongs, he needs to win the biggest trophies with his club. At this moment in time, PSG offers him a better route there than Barcelona.
If PSG can achieve the Champions League title, the biggest threat to Neymar being recognized as the best player in the world will be one of his own teammates.
In terms of worldwide recognition and importance to his club, Kylian Mbappe has surged past Neymar in the last 12 months.
This will grate with the Brazilian, but he must also sense that he can use this to his advantage. Mbappe is on the rise, but playing alongside such a superb young player should spur on the now older and more experienced Neymar. All eyes are on Mbappe, but it’s within Neymar’s control to remind the rest of the world exactly who he still is.
For many reasons, Neymar would quite happily walk back to Barcelona this afternoon if he had the chance. He loves the city and two of his best friends play there.
But Barcelona now is not the team he left. His older friends are now even deeper into their long and storied careers. Suarez just got an injury that will see him sit out the next four months. And Messi has suggested there is only this and one more season before he heads back to Argentina.
Factor into this the recent shambolic coaching change at the Camp Nou. And the upcoming presidential elections that promise to be bitter and destabilizing throughout the whole of next season.
Barcelona is still Barcelona. It will compete. But compare this with the super focused and lavishly funded project in Paris that has Champions League glory as its ultimate goal.
In many ways, it feels like the world of football has moved on from Neymar. Everyone knows how good he is, but he’s missed the chance to be truly great.
By staying in PSG and fully focusing on bringing glory to the Parc de Princes, Neymar has his best chance of getting back to the very top.
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Last modified: January 22, 2020 11:38 PM UTC