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Transfer stories involving Barcelona are nothing new, yet seldom do the Catalan giants find themselves in the position of such stories linking one of their stars with a move away from the Camp Nou.
Reports in Italy on Monday evening suggested that Paris Saint-Germain would be willing to pay the Brazilian’s £197 million buy-out clause this summer in order to prise the forward out of Spain.
Now of course these are very preliminary reports and whether or not PSG have the intention of following through with such a deal remains to be seen, however Barcelona must have some feelings of concern given the amount of stories involving Neymar’s future in the press in addition to just how difficult a process it was to eventually get the former Santos starlet to pen a contract extension in October of 2016.
Approaching his prime
At 25 years old, Neymar is approaching his prime and in truth he still remains a secondary attraction with the Blaugrana behind Lionel Messi. Now of course this is to be expected given the Argentine’s status as possibly the best to ever play the game but it is clear that by this point the Brazilian had expected to be Los Cules’ crown jewel.
If he moved to any other club aside from Real Madrid he would indeed be the best player and most marketable attraction.
The thought of Neymar in the red of Manchester United must drive sponsors absolutely wild given the size of the market in Brazil and South America, and this too is something PSG are interested in.
There is a feeling from the French capital that this is a deal that has long been in the thinking of those in power. Neymar is one of the sport’s biggest stars and would be a huge coup for a team that has seen their ambitious project lose a degree of steam over the past 12 months.
Marco Verratti is keen to leave for Barcelona whilst the club have also had difficult in tempting players from the Premier League to join them with a move for Alexis Sanchez having, for the moment, hit a wall.
The club needs a boost both on and off the pitch and there is nobody better to do that than Neymar, who could indeed fulfil his destiny of winning the Ballon d’Or should a team be built around him as would be the case at the Parc des Princes.
Must be treated better by Barca
Barcelona on the other hand are in a difficult position in that they can’t yet shift the focus away from Messi, who continues to win them matches singlehandedly, but they must also be aware that Neymar cannot be kept as a secondary act indefinitely.
With both Messi and Suarez aged 30 it is clear the club’s forward line will need rejuvenating shortly and it is absolutely clear that Neymar must be the centrepiece of the next attacking line-up.
The Brazilian has proved all doubters wrong since arriving in Europe and has developed his game to a point where he is genuinely one of the best five footballers in the world.
He was on the cusp of leading Brazil to glory in their own World Cup in 2014 before a serious back injury meant he missed the 7-1 semi-final drubbing at the hands of Germany.
Who knows whether or not the match would have played out differently had Neymar been on the pitch but I suspect the hosts will have had a little more attacking drive.
Now there is little Barcelona can really do to prevent a move at this juncture if the player is set on leaving.
The Brazilian’s buy-out clause is set in stone and following new regulations that were introduced in 2016, PSG would have to pay no tax on top of the £197 million fee if Barcelona were not open to agreeing a deal equivalent to that amount.
Furthermore after agreeing a contract extension as recently as the beginning of last season it is unlikely Los Cules can offer Neymar yet another new deal with an increased salary to match that on offer in France.
What Barcelona must do is merely persuade the forward to stay and to do that they must shift focus to him within their team dynamic.
Neymar has to be made the pivotal figure at Barcelona both commercially and on the pitch if they want him to remain at the club.
Now this isn’t an infantile suggestion that every pass has to go to his feet or that Messi must be shunned to make way for the younger model, but there needs to be a sizable shift from the feeling that Messi is entrusted with carrying the team, Neymar needs some responsibility.
His performance in the infamous 6-1 victory over PSG was a perfect example of the Brazilian’s readiness for responsibility. He dragged Barcelona over the line that night with three minutes that nobody will ever forget.
Neymar put his team back into contention with a wonderfully hit free-kick at the beginning of stoppage time and then provided the moment of the club’s season with a pin-point chipped pass back into the penalty area with mere seconds left to set up Sergi Roberto’s winner.
There was calmness under pressure from Neymar in this moment. When the match was frantic and panic was strewn across the pitch, he simply seemed to operate in slow motion as he cut back into a crossing position and almost effortlessly played the pass.
Barca can’t take him for granted
Barcelona remain confident Neymar will resist any move to Paris but they mustn’t take him for granted.
He is the future of the club and it is likely that will need to be made clear sooner rather than later if he is to remain with the Catalan giants.
Written by Chris Winterburn
Follow Chris on Twitter @Chriswin4
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