The Neymar Saga: A Question of Priorities

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - JULY 22: Neymar #11 of Barcelona heads for the net in the first half against Juventus during the International Champions Cup 2017 on July 22, 2017 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Neymar Jr., since his very first day as an FC Barcelona player, has been labelled as the man to lead the Catalan club when it’s time for the greatest player to ever grace the game, Lionel Messi, to hang up his boots. Skill-wise, it’s been crystal clear that Neymar has what it takes to be crowned as the world’s best. The only question has always been when because it’s not up to Neymar as much as it is to Messi. Neymar’s time will come when age catches up with the Argentine, not sooner.

Is that the shadow people claim Neymar wants to escape? Maybe, but there’s one issue with that. Individually, Neymar will never be a better player than Messi was. He can, however, be a more successful player. But to do that you need teammates that allow you to play your best football, and that you can depend on when things aren’t going your way. The easiest proof of that is Messi’s struggles with Argentina, where exceptional individual performances were rendered useless due to simply the gap in quality between Leo and his fellow compatriots. So, if you really want to escape Messi’s shadow, is Paris Saint-Germain the team to join? Obviously no.

Here lies the main issue. If Neymar wanted to leave Barcelona for a team like Bayern Munich or Juventus, it would’ve been an easier decision to swallow for cules. It’s the team choice that’s been most baffling because it makes no sense. Ligue One is, like Gerard Pique said, a definite step down from La Liga, making any achievements there of less significance. So even if Neymar scores 40+ goals in France season after season, and wins all domestic titles there are to be won, it’ll all mean nothing if PSG do not end the season as Europe’s best. And is their team more equipped to achieve that than Barca’s? Neymar should know better.

He should also be aware that being the star player of another team may not necessarily facilitate the great escape that he is pursuing. I mean, for the love of God, just take a look at Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo is and always has been Real Madrid’s star player, and yet he never got out of Messi’s shadow. It was only when he was surrounded with players that had what it takes to win Europe’s toughest competition that he got some of the recognition that he was looking for. Yet, it still isn’t enough.

That’s why I am disappointed. I thought Neymar realized that. I thought that he knew he needs players like Messi, Luis Suarez, Andres Iniesta, Pique, and Sergio Busquets to win the titles that matter. Fans remember team trophies, not who won the Pichichi 15 years ago. People say that, if it weren’t for Messi, Xavi and Iniesta would’ve each won a Ballon d’Or, and they’re right. But they will be forever remembered as two of the best ever midfielders to play the game because of what they achieved whilst playing for Barcelona, and for the Dream Team that they helped build.

That is why I believe that this isn’t about escaping Messi’s shadow and it never was. This is simply about an attractive offer, and I get that money is a strong incentive, I really do. Plus, a father like Neymar’s certainly makes it a lot more difficult to refuse whatever PSG is offering. So no, I do not blame Neymar for considering what was on the table. Because, at the end of the day, business is business, and football is a job for many, not a hobby. But you’d think that a player with Neymar’s fame, wealth, and ambition would prioritize the establishment of his legacy over a few more euros, and that is why this saga has turned a large number of fans against the 25-year old. Talented Brazilians have a history of screwing up their lives, but many thought that Neymar would be different, smarter than those before him, but he’s proving the skeptical right.

Neymar’s brawl with the new boy, Nelson Semedo, was for many the final nail in the coffin for the negative energy they feel it will infect the rest of the squad, and this is understandable. But, even though I think that his ugly reaction could have been simply due to a reckless challenge from Semedo right before a couple of games against Madrid in the Supercopa de Espana, there is probably more to it. Neymar losing his temper on the pitch is not news; it basically happens week in week out with opposing players and we’ve all gotten used to it. Teammates also fight occasionally and it’s no big deal, but it certainly does feel like his reaction was exaggerated and it just happens that Semedo was the one to push the trigger.

Put yourself in Neymar’s shoes for a second. You’ve got an offer from PSG that will make you rich as hell and your father, the man you owe your life to, is practically begging you to take it. You’ve got the best players in the world by your side telling you to stay put and make the decision that is best for your career. You’ve got a bunch of people you don’t know spamming you with insults and jokes on Twitter, accusing you of being a traitor and wishing Juan Zúñiga had successfully managed to paralyze you a few years back, and you haven’t even uttered a single word yet about your intentions. Now, tell me how would you feel. Confused? Lost? Scared? Take your pick.

This is the biggest decision of his life, and he has to make it at the age of 25. Do you go for the money or do you stay and attempt to make history? The romantics among us would answer “Stay!”, but they’re not the ones who have to decide. Whatever happens, Neymar must be the one to make the final call. Not his father, not Pique, not anyone, or else he may end up regretting his decision for a long, long time.

I still want Neymar to stay because, at the end of the day, he is an amazing player, and I do not feel like any of us can truly understand how it would feel to be in his position in order to judge his actions. If he chooses to stay, let’s put this behind us and move on. If he chooses to leave, I’ll be disappointed – not mad – but life goes on.

Big season ahead.

This is a guest post from former totalBarça writer Youssef Awwad [@yawwad11]

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  • Grega Kavčič

    Written like he earns peanuts in Barcelona. He was promised friend in Barcelona and he did not get them, even lost Alves who maybe made him come here in the first place. It’s not the monney.

    • Denis Melo

      Of course it is mostly about money. He’ll earn the double there, not the mentione the hotel chain, 100m bonus, and whatever more they give him. Barça is not his backyard also, to say he’s leaving because “he was promised friends”. The hell does that even mean. It’s professional football.

      • Grega Kavčič

        Yeah right.. dream on! The tax in france is 50% percent on wages and even the transfer cash is considered a wage. They will have to pay over 300million to barca before he gets his first paycheck.

        You think the other PSG stars will play for peanuts then? If Veratti were to stay they would have to pay him 15million net and so on… 100mil bonus haha. 😀

        • Denis Melo

          That’s psg’s problem, but they’ll pay him. They’re promising him 30m net per year, and qatar have money to do it. You’re really delusional if you think they won’t do it. The news is neymar will get a 300m contract from qatar to pay for his fee. Neymar will sign a contract and get all that money. 30m net per year, plus the 100m bonus signing. He’s leaving for what, then, to play with Cavani instead of Messi? Suuure thing, buddy.

  • Hector Narez

    Let him go with the buy out clause. He can be replaced with another quality player like Coutinho and still have money to reinforce defence or midfield.

  • Ayanfe Dada

    Xavi left and till today Barca still haven’t found his replacement. I get that were all mad about Neymar’s behavior of recent but to say that Neymar will be “easily” replaced if he decides to leave is a very big lie. There aren’t any young players of Neymar’s age in professional football today who are as good as he is talk more or being better than he is. Barca will struggle to replace Neymar if he leaves. That’s just the bitter truth. Not that Ney cannot be replaced eventually but it will NOT be easy finding that replacement

    • Grega Kavčič

      Neymar would really have to raise his game for him to be hard to replace. Last year at the beginning of the season Arda played better than Neymar in his position. If he

      Ney is wastefull and his awfull temper is also hard to watch.

      • Kneowell Anyanwu

        True, neymar is a fantastic player no doubt but if we disregard the show boating and bring it down to serious on-the-pitch football business, arda was just as effective the few times he played neymars role,just without the dribbles and show offs.
        neymar would really need to up his game especially in the area of goals, how can you have all that talent and not manage 20 league goals a season due to sheer wastefulness. I was telling someone that if only neymar tucked in half the chances messi and the rest of the team put on his feet, he would be competing with messi in goals. So yes am not even mad or sad he is leaving, thats one big ego down to deal with, less trouble for the coach and more flexibility for the team and also less wages paid and less bonuses to a shrewd father.

  • Alexis Sanchez

    I hope he leaves as soon as possible. Even before the start of the season

  • yaofengchen

    I hope Neymar come to his senses and stay. But I will not be very disappointed if he leaves, no matter the motives. I will be if Suarez does. Naturally we all expect Messi to retire in Barca.

  • JahLive

    This hole situation makes me think about Neymars decision to come to Barca.
    Back then he listened to his heart and come to Barcelona because it’s his dream club. But today it’s totally different story.
    That makes Neymar so FAKE and it feels like he only uses us to be famous. That is so sad if it’s true….
    Great brazilians in Europe are not that great anymore…..they always ends up in some kind of circus.
    So sad..

    • yaofengchen

      People change, time changes and circumstances change. Ney is in the shadow of Messi, there is no question about it. You could argue Ney could be just as deadly taking the free kicks. for example. But Messi will always be the one taking it 99% of the time. In PSG Ney will be taking the free kicks for sure. This is also the reason Dybala does not want to come to Barca when he can be the big dog with Juve. On the other hand, the front three complement one another, there is also no question. Losing Ney will be a net loss no matter how you look at it. But if you ask me which one of the three I’d rather lose, my choice would be Neymar. I think Suarez is more deadly. Messi of course is untouchable.

      But back to the realistic motivation why Ney wants to leave. Does his desire to be his own man trump the desire to get more trophies? Perhaps yes. Throw away the emotions, losing Neymar is a loss for both Neymar and Barca IMO. Neymar is easily the top 5 in the current world of football.

      • Kneowell Anyanwu

        Except i havent seen where dybala said he doesnt want to join barca. This is not to say i believe he is what the club needs though

        • yaofengchen

          You can be sure Dybala does not want to come to Barca when the front three were filled. Now things have changed. I hope he is open to a change of scenery. But it will not be that easy. He is already the top dog in Juve. Will he be willing to come under Messi’s wing? Maybe, and maybe not. Like you I hope to see Dybala in Barca uniform.

  • farid

    Well i really think its time for Neymar to leave. It is sickening for the club, players and fans to be facing all this drama. You wanna leave? Man up and say you are going. You wanna stay just clear the air ands ay you are staying – keeping quiet is making things worse.

    The money we get can be used to get back Alexis sanchez – his conrtact expiring after the upcoming season and we can definitely get him for a bargain. Hek with the money we going to get we can even afford to get Griezmann together with Alexis

  • Dick Dickerson

    Reading this article I couldn’t get rid of the feeling the author either has his head really deep up his ass or he’s just missing three chromosomes! They say Barca has the worst fans (well, second to Juventus in my opinion) and this statement must have a solid ground reasoning. When it comes to business management and transfer policy/politics, this club is the absolute worst as well! Instead of forming a wide coalition to fight this transfer and crying like little girls asking UEFA for “fair” trade, they must be doing everything humanly possible to sell this underachieving and hugely overrated brazilian misunderstanding to any fool who’s ready to pay 220M! I, personally, would offer a 5% discount to any moron out there willing to pay that price. Even more – sell Messi as well! There are some other lunatics on an island north of France who’d shell out even more for a player who’s well over his heyday and who has nothing else to offer this club! With projected revenue of close to half a billion from the sale of just two players this club can start thinking about a sustainable business model that will guarantee present and future success. And maybe, just maybe, finally be able to afford to get an adequate defense players, for Christ sake! But as we all know, this won’t happen. They will keep proclaiming their useless “youth” model development academy that hasn’t contributed anything since Xavi, and will keep spending colossal amounts of money on colossal flops! Way to go!

    • prince christopher

      Damn dude, I’m not surprised your parent named you DICK, you are one moda***king D**k. Do you even know anything about football or you are just a pathetic Real madrid fan? anyhow, leave this place, you are not wanted.

      • Dick Dickerson

        Did your parents named you “prince”? Then jokes are on you! Now, seriously. In your “kids with laptops” world, poetic endings, where the team walks off in the sunset with the trophy (LaLiga, CL etc.) is how you understand reality. In my (the real) world, the endings are the bottom line and cash flow. Since football is nothing but business venture, it should be treated like one. So, math is pretty simple. The tabloid action and PR drama are for those who spend $50 on a ticket every week and think their “heroes” are there for them and for the club they swear by at the signing press conference…
        PS No, I’m not a RM fan but admire every team that brings pleasure with their game!
        PSS Facebook names/accounts are NOT all real, you know…

    • Kneowell Anyanwu

      Easy dick,lmao! Everything but the sell messi part. Lol

  • serko10

    what a bunch of emotional fanboy nonsense. i swear i came here expecting this type of article and i was completely not disapointed. Barca fans, and i am and have been one of them for a long loooooong time, often lack complete sense of reality. Get over yourselfs already. Barca is not the end all be all of football for every player. We are not a cleaner and holier than thou club, and we are not the perfect team. We’re a business, just like psg is a business. Maybe you guys forgot the Qatar Foundation on our shirt the last few years? Paris is a big city, a huge city, and psg deserves a big team. We did not beat psg last year because we were better than them, i’d argue they outplayed us 3/4ths of both legs combined, but choked in the dying minutes, but they looked better than us most of the game. We’ve been sleeping at the wheel for years, buying alot of useless players, or older players, and failing to replace a number of pilars. Neymar leaving wouldn’t have been such a big deal had the club not been a royal mess in the transfer and management department. To say juventus or bayern have more potential for the next few years than psg is to be disingenious or misinformed. You’ll always need a bit of luck, but quality wise PSG now has everything it needs. Take away Messi from barca and we won’t win anything at all. We’re not that far ahead of any big club

    • Kneowell Anyanwu

      Hey serkan where have you been? Jeeez! Feels like ages since thw season ended. Miss our unending arguements man, cant wait for the season to start to get at each others throats again. Lol. Really i hope not, just jokes

    • Kneowell Anyanwu

      But man why you mad? Who did you this way? Neymar or the board? 😁😁. They aint worth it fam. Lol