Fascinating how in the space of 18 months, football’s elite Franco-Spanish landscape can change so much, with de-stabilization helped in no small way by the world pandemic.
At the beginning of the period, it looked like Neymar was on his way out of PSG, with Barcelona his likely destination. Then enter Real Madrid just to add further complexity and all of a sudden the Brazilian, with his ‘heart set on a move to beloved Barca’, also began considering a future in white.
It looked at that time like Neymar’s least desirable point in the triangle was the French capital. Fans had turned against him, he was recovering from injury away from the first team squad, and the relationship between club and player looked irreconcilable.
But money talks and PSG’s Sporting Director, Leonardo was in no mood to oversee his star asset depart on someone else’s terms.
Leonardo and PSG didn’t get what they wanted, so they dug their heels in as both Spanish giants couldn’t, or weren’t willing to, raise the cash demanded by the Parisiens.
Neymar stayed, got healthy again, knuckled down and returned to the first-team, which went all the way to the Champions League final.
The circus of the unsettled star this summer centred around the desire of Lionel Messi to depart Barcelona. This time it would be Barca to drop anchor and refuse to budge, despite the player believing he was able to leave for free.
And now it seems Neymar, who left Barcelona three seasons ago for Paris, primarily to emerge from the shadow of the Argentinian, wants to be team-mates with Messi once again.
After starring in PSG’s 3-1 success at Old Trafford last evening, the Brazilian said, “What I want most of all is to play with Messi again, to be able to enjoy him once again on the pitch.
“He can play in my place, I have no problem with that! But I want to play with him next year, for sure. We have to do it next season.”
So now all of a sudden there appears the same scenario as before, only in reverse and without, so far, any encroachment from Real Madrid, not that Barcelona would sell Messi to Real anyhow... but what if he was out of contract?
Messi is unlikely to ever incur the wrath of Barcelona fans by doing such a thing, so the unthinkable remains exactly that.
But could Messi end up at PSG with Neymar? How ironic that would be after both men tried to engineer Neymar’s return to the Nou Camp last year. Is it too cynical to suggest PSG now trumps Barcelona in the minds of the pair, now that the Catalans have become strapped for cash?
Of course it’s all possible, but PSG may have to let Kylian Mbappe go to make it happen. Do they prefer to have 21 year-old Mbappe or 33 year-old Messi? Perhaps they can afford all three, but this seems unlikely despite the inconsistency and uncertain effectiveness of Financial Fair Play rules.
So many questions, just not too many answers, at least not publicly... yet!
But where else could Messi and Neymar again become team-mates, if that indeed is the desire of both men?
Barcelona’s two new presidential candidates want Messi to stay, but with the player’s heart set on a move, that seems to be a losing battle for whichever man is elected.
Manchester City, Juventus and Inter are possibilities, but with Neymar’s contract having 18 months to run (Messi’s expires at the end of this season), it’s highly unlikely he would join Messi at any of these clubs next summer.
That all makes PSG look like the only practical option. And if they do have to sell Mbappe, there’s a highly interested suitor in Real Madrid, who are sure to try tempt the young Frenchman away this summer.
Meanwhile underneath the Eiffel Tower Parisiens may already dreaming of a first-ever Champions League trophy held aloft by a Brazilian and an Argentinian.
I wonder which one is wearing the #10?