A short while ago, in Barcelona, a well-informed colleague told me that Neymar wouldn’t be able to withstand it for very much longer in Messi’s shadow. He joined Barça on his own free will and was delighted to do so – flattered by the admiration which the Blaugranas showed him in that Club World Cup final in Yokohama, in which both he and Santos were humbled by Barça's unsurpassable brand of football. Right from that day, his mind was set on Barça. But recently, he has been pushing for a more prominent role on the billing: “He’ll stick it out here for another year at the most”, my friend conceded. Now it transpires that he is flirting with PSG, who in turn are looking for a suitable standard-bearer to lead their own new project.
Neymar playing second fiddle to Messi
It’s understandable that Neymar aspires to top the bill. Something similar is happen now with Mikel Landa, who feels he could win this year’s Tour de France if only he wasn’t constantly in Chris Froome’s shadow. Neymar has Messi ahead of him, and the Argentinean gives off the impression that he will remain at the peak for many years to come. Neymar has spent four seasons playing alongside him – the same amount of time it takes to study for an honours degree, and now he wants to gain his doctorate. PSG would suit him down to a tee. It was precisely against PSG he had his finest hour; he was central to Barça’s comeback. That night Messi was uncharacteristically subdued, it was Neymar who pulled the team back from the abyss but it was Messi whose photo graced the next day’s newspapers. How can he possible aspire to win the Ballon d’Or under such circumstances?
Verratti as makeweight in the operation
And right in the middle of it all is Barcelona’s interest in Marco Verratti. Perhaps the whole PSG-Neymar escapade began as a result of Barça's eagerness to sign Verratti. That the operation is viable is anything matter entirely. But it’s certainly plausible. Neymar’s buy-out clause is 222 million euros; Verratti is valued at 100 million. If Barça could lure Verratti in part exchange for Neymar and 122 million (a figure close to Mbappé’s asking price) it could turn out to be a tidy bit of business. And they’ve still got Messi for a decent while to come to boot. In the meantime, PSG are not going to find a figurehead quite like Neymar on the markets for their new project. Selling off Verratti could compensate. I’ve no idea how it will all pan out but the idea isn’t quite as harebrained as it might seem.