Neymar’s transfer to Barcelona was the club’s best acquisition in almost a decade—replacing David Villa wasn’t going to be easy but the Youtube sensation was up to the task, wasn’t he?
Well, not quite.
Neymar was a skinny brat with feet that could surprise the dullest of statues and wake them from their slumber. His ability and potential promised the stars, but he wasn’t the first Brazilian with a reputation for having talent—there had been plenty of prospects who moved to Europe hoping to make a name for themselves in vain; Neymar was an expensive risk.
If seeing was believing, then Neymar was going to be special. He had the flair and charisma to win over the world. He was an investment on behalf of the board, albeit a murky one, but he was certainly starting to pay dividends—had anyone seen a talent like the Brazilian in the modern generation? I certainly hadn’t; there was an aura around the transfer that brought the spotlight in all its brilliance on Barcelona. It was a commercial masterstroke for the club and its ambition of being a global sporting brand.
Neymar grew into his role with each passing year, becoming a crucial part of Barça’s attacking trident alongside Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi. The three of them took the world by storm, scoring goals for fun and rewriting records in the process—between the three of them, Barcelona boasted of having the top three players in the world.
In 2015, the trio won Barça their second treble in exciting fashion with Neymar scoring the goal that put the Champions League final against Juventus to bed.
Barcelona was an empire, and Neymar was the heir apparent to the throne.
If someone had told me before Neymar’s transfer that Barcelona would get involved in shady underhanded transfers, I would have scoffed at them with disgust—how dare someone make such accusations about my beloved club? I couldn’t have been more wrong. It took four years for the Blaugrana to resolve the issue with the legal authorities and finally put the matter to rest; the perpetrator, former Barcelona president Sandro Rossell, sits in jail at this moment.
Many believed that Neymar was worth every single penny that the club spent on his transfer—I was in agreement. Whether it was worth risking the club’s reputation is an entirely separate issue, but financially? It was worth it.
At least till he asked for a transfer.
Suddenly, everyone sees the player and his father for their antics. The warning bells should have rung when Barcelona had to pay a massive sum of money to Neymar’s corporation for his transfer. If that wasn’t enough, the constant flirting with Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain should have alarmed the board, but it didn’t. Surely it was just gossip, wasn’t it?
The speed with which Neymar has managed to wiggle his way out of the club makes me believe that this was all done in the most calculated of fashions. From the renewals to the low buyout clause along with the dragging of this saga till they became eligible for the loyalty bonus, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Neymar has held the club hostage to the point where we are left empty handed—apart from the €222million, that is.
If Neymar had asked for a transfer earlier, he wouldn’t be eligible for the bonus but would have given Barça enough time to find his replacement. In all fairness, an arrangement could have been negotiated and things could have ended peacefully between the player and the club. The reality, however, is a difficult pill to swallow.
In a tale that has come full-circle, Neymar’s tenure at Barça is tragically poetic.
Barcelona sold its soul to sign him, and after all the glamour and fortune, the pain was quick to follow; Sandro Rossell is a living testimony.
Neymar is selling his soul to move to PSG. I’m sure there will be a lot of glamour and money involved in the transfer and it will please him beyond belief.
If history is anything to go by, however, the pain isn’t too far behind.
“If you sell your soul to get ahead it will cost more than you bargained for. When you earn your success and never take something for nothing, no one can lay claim to what’s rightfully yours.” — Carlos Wallace