Where Do Barcelona and PSG Go From Here After Neymar's Stunning Transfer?
- With great expectation comes great pressure for PSG, while Barcelona has an opportunity to remake its squad with the financial windfall from Neymar's transfer to Paris.
Well, the previously unthinkable is official. Neymar is PSG's newest No. 10, completing a record-shattering transfer from Barcelona that weeks ago seemed unfathomable. As the reports and rumors grew, and the story simply would not go away, it became more apparent that this move was actually going to happen (despite Gerard Pique's finest attempts on Instagram), and with the triggering of Thursday's €222 million release clause, Neymar capped one of the true stunning transfers of our time.
The move creates seismic effects across Europe. The impact will clearly be felt heavily in Ligue 1 (PSG begins its season this Saturday already, hosting promoted side Amiens), La Liga and the Champions League, and the trickle-down effect could hit a handful of other clubs, depending on how Barcelona and PSG proceed from here.
Taking a more focused approach, here's how the transfer impacts the teams directly linked to the move:
For a second straight summer, Barcelona is left licking its wounds as a star Brazilian departs Camp Nou. In the case of Dani Alves, it was more Barcelona's choice just to simply move on, mistakenly thinking that it could replace the aging right back instead of overpaying to keep him. As he helped lead Juventus to Serie A glory and the Champions League final, it became ever so apparent that Barcelona miscalculated.
Taking it a step further, Alves and Neymar are countrymen and friends. Had Alves still been at Barcelona, would Neymar perhaps have had more incentive to stay put? His move to Paris may have increased the likelihood that Neymar would follow suit.
Nevertheless, Barcelona can't look back. It has a windfall of over $260 million to play with now, and it must invest wisely. Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, who can do plenty to ensure the club still challenges both domestically and in Europe, need a new third musketeer, and it has to be one ready for a complementary role while also not shying from the spotlight. Barcelona isn't just any club (in fact, the club's brass might even tell you that it is more than a club), and players must fit the philosophy that new manager Ernesto Valverde has been tasked with restoring.
You've surely seen the names to whom the club has been linked by now: Philippe Coutinho, Paulo Dybala, Ousmane Dembele, Eden Hazard, Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann, Angel Di Maria, Marco Verratti. Their current clubs will set exorbitant prices, knowing Barcelona's desperation, and wildly splashing cash to fit a big-name void isn't necessarily the wise move, though it can surely afford any of the above now.
Instead of approaching its next few weeks with impulse buys and knee-jerk reactions, Barcelona should take a moment and survey the landscape. It boasts a midfield quartet (featuring Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitic and Javier Mascherano) that is all between 29 and 34 and could use rejuvenation. Barcelona already (unsuccessfully) barked up the Verratti tree, and Di Maria could be expendable at PSG now. Would the two clubs do business again?
Elsewhere, Messi and Suarez need someone to lighten the load up top (though it could be Gerard Deulofeu's time to shine in a Barcelona uniform at last). Central defense must be fortified, with Pique hitting 30 and that area already showing signs of vulnerability. Napoli's Kalidou Koulibaly will cost a pretty euro, but the in-demand 25-year-old could fit the bill. New signing Nelson Semedo will be afforded the chance to prove he's the answer at right back, with Hector Bellerin talk subsiding, and seeing how Manchester City has cornered the market on fullbacks anyway, that need appears to be covered.
Truth be told, Barcelona had plenty of needs even if Neymar remained (it's amazing how much the M-S-N trio could cover up). This isn't an ideal circumstance for Barcelona, but it is certainly one that comes with opportunity.
Costs aside, PSG is Europe's big winner of the transfer window, which still has weeks to go. The club landed the marquee prize in Neymar, landed an under-the-radar coup in snagging Alves before he could head to Man City, and with Monaco hemorrhaging talent, it appears to be a lock for Ligue 1's title. It's not a stretch to suggest an undefeated season could be in the cards, though the margin for error domestically will certainly be large and it will be getting every opponent's best shot each night (not that it didn't already have a sizable target on its collective back).
It's the European stage where PSG and its success will be judged the most. Its failings in the Champions League quarterfinal stage are well documented, and it was Neymar who was the catalyst for the classic collapse at Camp Nou this past season. Anything but at least a semifinal berth in Neymar's first season will be seen as a disappointment, and if Unai Emery struggles to mold this team into a powerhouse in the opening months of the season, you'd better believe his hot seat will overheat in no time.
There's also the issue of PSG's roster and lineup construction. As good as Neymar is, he doesn't exactly fill a needs area for the club. Incumbent talent will be cast aside, and that can make for an awkward chemistry dynamic. Neymar wants to be "the man" and take on new challenges, and he'll certainly have his chances to do that at PSG. Lead the club to European glory, and he'll forever be a legend. But someone will have to sacrifice for him to do that. Whether it's Di Maria, Javier Pastore or any of PSG's other attack-first midfielders and forwards, PSG will have to make room. Neymar transitioned rather seamlessly to Barcelona from Santos. Whether he can do the same from Barcelona to PSG while carrying the weight of expectation will be an entirely different animal.