When the absurd news that PSG were preparing a €222 million bid for Neymar, many immediately dismissed it. Bearing in mind the transfer record at that time was the €105 million Manchester United paid for Paul Pogba, the idea that a club was ready to double it within the space of a year seemed another piece of tabloid sensationalism. Also, why would Neymar leave? He was at one of Europe’s elite and the switch would have placed him at a team trying to break into that.
The list of reasons why not grew and grew but the reasons why were clear. Neymar wanted to, he wanted to be the star and felt he couldn’t be in Lionel Messi’s shadow. His recent comments also suggest a displeasure with the current Barcelona board, a mutual feeling within the squad that many of the current players are unable to comment on.
Barça lived in a state of denial right up until Neymar played his first game for the Parisian club. Denying any rumours, refusing to deal with PSG and with a large amount of pettiness, not allowing Neymar to play right away. They seemed shocked that another club was employing the same transfer tactics that they had used for years.
Put yourself in Messi’s shoes. You’ve seen the players you’ve grown up with leave or become discontent. Puyol gone, Xavi gone, Pinto gone, Iniesta considering his future and now Neymar leaves. The once unthinkable idea of leaving Barça becomes one that is increasingly attractive. Pep Guardiola’s project at City is an appealing one. More money, a chance to escape this Barça board and a chance to be reunited with the coach that got the best out of Messi.
Earlier this summer, Bartomeu gave an interview saying Messi had already signed his extension, this was false. Then he said he would sign it after the player returned from his holidays, this was false. Then he said Messi would sign after the US tour, this was false. Which is why we arrive on the 21st of August with the Liga season begun and still Messi has not signed the extension.
Messi’s current buyout clause stands at €300 million which a month ago seemed impossible to meet but after the Neymar saga, that figure is looking more and more affordable. Reports of a call between Pep Guardiola and Messi emerged at the weekend with the latter supposedly being open to a switch to Manchester City.
Messi and Neymar are two totally different cases. One was a signing made when the player was 21 while the other has been at the club since he was 12. The Argentine has grown up at the club and owes a lot to that for his success. It is not unreasonable to expect Messi to stay at the Camp Nou until he retires but that does not mean the Barça board can take any chances of him leaving as definitely not happening. This summer has already been a disaster for the Catalan club and it could be made into the worst window ever for the club if Messi were to depart.