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Europe: Neymar/Barca/Real Latest - Why He Left La Liga & Why He Wants to Return

The saga over the most protracted and biggest transfer of 2019.

Brazil v Paraguay: Quarterfinal - Copa America Brazil 2019
Neymar’s summer. Injury ruled him out of the Copa America in Brazil, where he went to watch the Selecao regain the South American crown.
Photo by Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images

As a top soccer player who believes he’s at the wrong place at the right time, there can’t be anything much more reassuring than being at the centre of triangle between Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona and the moneybags club of France, PSG. Actually forget ‘reassuring’, it’s immensely ego-boosting. Or it would be if you didn’t already believe you are the best player on the planet.

And so it goes on. Latest developments on Tuesday, saw PSG’s top brass, including Leonardo, finally sit across a table from the club they prefer not to do business with, Barcelona.

The meeting, despite the emergence of new options, didn’t exactly go well, and proved inconclusive, but is only part of a process that looks set to run .... until the player ends up at either one of the Spanish giants.

Cagliari v AC Milan - Serie A
Playing hardball. Former Brazilian international Leonardo, currently Sporting Director of PSG, and leading the French club’s handling of the Neymar situation.
Photo by Enrico Locci/Getty Images

The situation is made all that more complicated by PSG’s posturing. They know how badly Neymar is wanted, with neither La Liga rival wishing to lose out on the big prize, to the other. PSG basically are in the enviable position to ask for precisely what it wants, and if it’s not forthcoming, then they will wait ... and wait ... and ...

Neymar for his part wants to go to Barca, but refuses to rule out the possibility of moving to another club (Real).

Both Spanish clubs’ outlays on players this close-season means that not even they can afford the fee demanded (around 200-220m euros), so only cash plus player deals can be considered.

In the latest of these developments according to BBC Radio 5 Live’s Spanish football analyst, Guillem Balague , the Barca delegation led by Director of Football, Eric Abidal, are believed to have offered 100m euros ($111m) plus Philippe Coutinho. There is also speculation Croatian international, Ivan Rakitic’s name was thrown up as a potential bargaining chip.

At least there is agreement on one thing. PSG would like Philippe Coutinho, and Barca wish to off-load, but each side’s valuation of the player differs.

Brazil v Peru: Final - Copa America Brazil 2019
Philippe Coutinho in action at his year’s Copa America Final against Peru, is a favourable option to PSG, but only as part of a package.
Photo by Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images

The other player from Barca that interests Leonardo and PSG is Portuguese right-sided defender Semedo, but the Catalans are refusing to budge on that one.

So to sum up, PSG’s position during Tuesday’s meeting was Coutinho, Semedo and 120m euros for Neymar. Some other offers were mentioned and PSG have agreed to respond to Barcelona within 48 hours (presumably by Thursday midnight) according to a close friend of Neymar’s entourage, reports Le Parisien.

Real for their part, had previously presented a deal including money as well as Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez, something that held very little interest for PSG coach Thomas Tuchel.

But PSG have asked for 19-year-old, Vinicius Junior and Real so far, refuse to put his name in the frame, but that could change depending on how far club president, Florentino Perez, wants to go to get his man. It’s also abundantly clear the French club prefers to do business with Real rather than Barcelona.

Why did Neymar wish to leave Barca in the first place, two years ago?

This appears to be an obvious question to ask.

To make sense of it you need to rewind of course. South American football expert, Tim Vickery, at the time, told SkySports the move “made logical sense” if the Brazilian dreams of winning soccer’s biggest individual prize.

“Neymar’s career has always been step-by-step towards an objective.

“As well as winning the Champions League, which he has done, he wants the World Cup, which he hasn’t, and the FIFA World Player of the Year Award. That award plays really big in Brazil.

“Between 1994 and 2007, five Brazilians won it on eight separate occasions and that sets the bar for the generations that follow. If he doesn’t win that award, his career will be seen to some extent as a disappointment.

“He’s not going to win it if he’s not the best player in his own team. The idea was always to take things slowly, go to Barcelona in Messi’s shadow, a lovely place to be for a while but not a great place to be forever.”

FC Barcelona v Juventus - UEFA Champions League Quarter Final: Second Leg
Messi (extreme left front row) alongside Neymar lining out for Barcelona prior to the 2017 Champions League quarter-final against Juventus at Camp Nou. Neymar and his entourage felt that the Brazilian needed to emerge from under Messi’s shadow, if he were ever to become FIFA World Player of the Year.
Photo: Matteo Bottanelli/NurPhoto via Getty Images

But Messi signed a new contract, hence the logic behind Neymar and his entourage seeking glory elsewhere, in Paris, where Neymar would be the main man. There was also the not so small matter of a six-year deal worth $600,000-a-week, according to L’Equipe, significantly more than he was earning at Camp Nou.

Many of Neymar’s close friends were already playing at Parc des Princes as well; Dani Alves, Thiago Silva, Marquinhos and Lucas Moura.

But now despite scoring 34 Ligue Un goals in 2 years, things haven’t quite worked out in Paris, and Neymar, injured, has overseen successive Champions League Round of 16 exits from a soft seat in the Parc des Princes VIP enclosure.

Speculation has also emerged suggesting the injuries sustained have caused Neymar to consider leaving French football and return to Spain where a more technical, less physical and aggressive football is played.

In fact French newspaper Le Parisien puts forward the theory that the move is potentially to ease hardship and extend the player’s career, and that according to a recent medical report, the bone structure in the right foot was not yet stable. There was even the suggestion that Neymar’s career is in danger.

PSG leader, Leonardo, just this week however has completely refuted that, saying, “Neymar was controlled by the world’s leading doctors and surgeons early in the season and his fracture line is fully consolidated at the 5th metatarsal. Neymar’s wound is completely settled.”

It would appear despite La Liga getting underway tomorrow evening when Barca travel Messi-less (he’s injured) to Bilbao to face Athletic, the Neymar saga will run right up to its September 2 transfer deadline. That will provide scant comfort for several other major stars, like Coutinho, Rakitic, Bale, James, Semedo or Vinicius Junior, some of whom will almost certainly not reach mid-season at the same place where they started it.