So, it actually happened. The €222 million move for Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain was completed and was officially unveiled on Friday. Despite the ridiculous fee and underlying reasons behind the transfer, Neymar has to be respected for his achievements at Barcelona. 186 games and 105 goals, two La Liga titles and a Champions League, he could not have won much more. On a sadder note, we will no longer see one third of the greatest front-three of a generation, perhaps of all time.
There is obvious speculation of the reasoning behind the move. The cynical ones among us will say Neymar and his father were motivated by money, and in their defence, a £515,000 -a-week contract is quite the incentive to move clubs. That wage will come in handy as Barcelona have withdrawn the €26 million loyalty bonus for Neymar as his move violated the terms of the agreement.
Others will say that Neymar was jealous of Messi, that he could never become the ‘star’ of Barcelona as long as the Argentine was still playing. There is some sense to that reasoning, it is a fact that Neymar cannot wait until Messi and Ronaldo both retire if he wants to win the Ballon D’or. He must go out and prove he is worthy himself and become the ‘star’ of another super-club.
No doubt Neymar has the ability to score enough in Ligue 1 to have almost a goal-a-game ratio, whether it will be enough to reach Messi and Ronaldo levels remains to be seen. His case won’t be helped by the fact that a goal in Ligue 1 essentially counts less towards the European Golden Boot, according the strength of the leagues.
For Barcelona, it is time to move on from Neymar, and quickly. With three weeks left in the transfer window, a replacement must be found fast if they’re to settle into the squad and the unique Barcelona style before the domestic season begins. Ousmane Dembele has been the strongest and most rumoured candidate to replace Neymar this transfer window.
However, Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke has said this week that even a €100 million will not be enough to steal their young star. With Dortmund’s teenage talent Emre Mor confirming he is looking to make a move to Inter Milan, Dortmund are determined to keep hold of at least one of their future stars.
Other potential replacements include Coutinho, who is reportedly desperate for a move to Barcelona. The Brazilian has been complimented by Barcelona players in the past and seems a natural fit for their fluid style of play. Jurgen Klopp now faces a similar dilemma to that of Arsene Wenger and Alexis Sanchez, whether it is worth it to keep hold of star player who clearly wants to leave. The alternative is to cash in for a replacement who will give their all for the team.
Finally, Julian Draxler’s agent has been pictured in Barcelona, a player who, if signed, will go some way to the Blaugrana getting their own back over PSG. Draxler has been one the biggest losers in the Neymar transfer saga, leaving Wolfsburg after a turbulent spell and hoping to reignite his career in the French capital. He is certainly a player with huge potential, but now looks likely to be benched for the most expensive player of all time.
A Change of System?
A more radical solution is to change the formation Barcelona play to cover the clear weaknesses in the squad. A three-man defence could be the perfect solution for Barcelona’s problems which became evident last year.
They have struggled to replace Dani Alves’ right-back spot, with Sergi Roberto proving a competent, if unremarkable stop-gap. Roberto has also been linked with Monaco and Chelsea recently, and could move in search of a more important role in a team. He has also been linked with Manchester United but at this point, who hasn’t? It’s almost a rite of passage.
Should Barcelona switch to this system, they have a perfect player to fit the formation in Jordi Alba. Having only one wide player would allow Alba even more freedom to go forward as a winger, where he played early in his career. The narrower formation would also allow Messi to play more centrally, an almost inevitable change in the future as he enters his thirties.
Whether it is a straight replacement for Neymar or a change of system, Barcelona cannot allow themselves the time to lick their wounds or mourn the loss of the Brazilian. Their first game of the La Liga season is Sunday, August 20th at home to Real Betis.