PSG has a disgruntled superstar, while Barcelona has a locker room full of players it very publicly tried to offload in a blockbuster transfer that never materialized. So how will both clubs move forward?

By 90Min
September 04, 2019

For a while, it seemed pretty much inevitable that Neymar would escape from Paris Saint-Germain, but the level of the Brazilian's desire to leave failed to shift the immovable forces of PSG's reluctance to sell and Barcelona's lack of funds and the overall lack of middle ground between the two clubs.

The saga became the sideshow of the summer but ended with an unsatisfying cliffhanger as the transfer deadline passed on Monday with Neymar still a PSG player and Barcelona moving on.

So, what happens for the clubs now? That's a very expensive and complex question–for both sides.


Paris Saint-Germain

FRANCK FIFE/GettyImages

There seems to be almost no possibility that Neymar will make peace with PSG's Qatari ownership, which stood firm to prevent their key asset in their fruitless pursuit of European glory from pushing through the ultimate show of player power to return to Catalonia.

While PSG certainly didn't want to lose face by accepting defeat in the battle for one of football's biggest superstars by seeing him ditch their project for one of football's old elite, this summer it really came down to a question of cash.

New sporting director Leonardo - who has seemingly done nothing to attempt to appease the sulking Neymar - said back in July: “It is a financial question. Neymar can leave PSG if there is an offer which suits everyone. But up to now, we do not know if anyone wants to buy him, or at what price. PSG want to count on players who want to be here and build something big. We do not need players who are doing a favor to the club by being here.”

Leonardo later revealed that Barça only submitted their first written offer on August 27, and were never able to come close to what PSG wanted.

FRANCK FIFE/GettyImages

So now, for a minimum of four months until the January transfer window opens, the two seething parties must attempt to find some way to return to normal - or at least the public perception of normal.

PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi is, according to ESPN, 'disgusted' with Neymar's attitude after the way the French club accommodated his every whim after he arrived two summers ago as the world's most expensive footballer.

However, it seems unlikely that PSG will allow the 27-year-old to rot with solo training and no first-team action until his contract ends, as previously suggested.

Nobody is winning from the current situation, and the clear solution seems to be a Neymar sale next summer, if not in January. How exactly Neymar is re-integrated into the team for the short-term though is not clear.

One report claims that PSG stars chanted 'se queda' (the infamous caption of Gerard Pique's tweet with Neymar back in 2017) upon the news that there would be no transfer this window.

As identified by Mundo Deportivo there is a FIFA loophole that could allow Neymar to leave what they call his 'golden prison' at the end of the 2019/20 season. 

By that time, Neymar will have fulfilled what FIFA defines as 'the protected period' of three full seasons. After that, if a player is still operating on the same contract that he signed without having renewed, FIFA - under Article 17 of the regulations on the Statute and Transfer of Players - recognis\zes a player's right to leave their club for compensation.

The amount of this compensation is calculated by FIFA's own formula. According to the report, Neymar agents have already consulted the game's governing body and understand that for an amount close to €170m, it is possible to 'buy his freedom'.

For PSG, time will tell whether the saga helps shape the future recruitment policy of PSG in their quest for European dominance.


Barcelona

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Barcelona supposedly offered as many as seven different first-team players throughout the summer as makeweights to sweeten the deal without fronting up cash (which was never an option after spending big on Antoine Griezmann and Frenkie de Jong).

Samuel Umtiti, Ivan Rakitic, Ousmane Dembele, Arthur Melo, Jean-Clair Todibo and Nelson Semedo were all supposedly put up to facilitate the return of Barcelona’s prodigal son, but getting their consent to be part of the deal proved to be a challenge.

How those less-than-magnificent seven simply return to training now as if nothing happened is really anybody's guess.  

It's hard to imagine players like Dembele, whose attitude and professionalism has frequently been questioned during his spell at Camp Nou, will feel extra motivated by the failed and very public attempts to ship them away.

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Marca already hint at a dressing room split between those who were disappointed not to see Neymar return and those upset at the club's attempts to use them in order to bring the Brazilian back.

In the former camp (which apparently includes Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez), it's reported that some are convinced that the board's pursuit of Neymar was mere lip service to keep them happy and there was never a genuine possibility of the forward's return this summer.

Unsettling seven players seems like an odd way to keep morale up in the squad. Crucially, that's odd but not necessarily unlikely when the politics of Barcelona, Messi and big-money transfers come into play.

Interestingly, the fabled 'MSN' trio still have a WhatsApp group together, in which they discussed Neymar's proposed return this summer, according to Suarez.

“We talked to Ney when he wanted to leave. At the time he decided that it was best for him. And now his decision was to do everything to come back,” Suarez told Fox Sports Radio in Argentina as quoted by Mundo Deportivo.

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There seems almost no doubt that Barça will return with another push for Neymar, with all parties beyond the point of no return in this increasingly tawdry tale.

Catalan daily SPORT has already published a five-point plan for how 'Operacion Neymar' succeeds in 2020. This includes: negotiating with Barcelona only, accepting a salary reduction and even the possibility of Neymar fronting money himself to pay off PSG to move (something that was also mooted as deadline day approached on Monday).

Like with Griezmann, it seems inevitable that Barça will eventually get their man unless something drastic changes at board level. 

But at what cost?

The unsettled squad members, such as Rakitic, Semedo and Dembele, may eventually be moved on or reintegrated without fuss, but Barcelona have shown a cavalier attitude to assets that they may need to rely on. They are already five points behind Atletico Madrid in La Liga this season, and it looks like the summer's disruption has played a part on the pitch.

Barça's recent transfer strategy may be delivering domestic trophies, but there are serious underlying problems, particularly with regard to long-term planning. Neymar is little more than another short-term gain to heal the wounds of 2017, but he does little to help adequately prepare for the ominous prospect of life after Messi.

FRANCK FIFE/GettyImages

In the meantime, Barça and Neymar will meet in court later this month to settle lawsuits and counter lawsuits revolving around bonus payments the player was to receive after signing a new contract just months prior to his transfer to PSG. 

The courtroom, more than the board room or the football pitch, could prove key in Neymar's future prospects of playing for Barcelona again.

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