“I need a new challenge”
Five words with which Neymar Jr chose to explain his departure from Catalan giants Barcelona and hook up with French moneybags Paris Saint Germain.
Pundits, players, and fans around the world had quickly drawn one conclusion to the Brazilians desire to leave (what many consider to be) the greatest club in the world in order to play in a league that has repeatedly been described as “second class”. That conclusion was: money.
Even if the motivating factor was cold hard cash then I very much doubt Neymar would stand up in front of the French media and say “Yeah, I’m here for the Paycheck”. Although I would have admitted him if he had.
Instead, the PSG’s new number 10 cited the “challenge” of the move as the reason behind his desire to leave. Fair enough, but is that the real reason?
When I first heard those five words I assumed it was a translation issue. When he said “Challenge” what he meant was Porsche… “I need a new Porsche” and a new house, and a boat, and a private jet for that matter. There can be no doubt that this move, at least in part is motivated by money. He is a professional footballer and part of being a “professional” is making money. In Paris, Neymar can make huge dirty lumps of the stuff. There will be no end of wage deals, endorsements, appearance fees. His accountant will be flooded with such incomings that it will be him facing the new challenge rather than him employer.
However, I’m not sure if the either of those arguments for his Nou Camp departure tells the whole story.
Even if the move wasn’t motivated by money, those various revenue streams do hint at what may have been behind Neymar’s move. He is now, within hours of his transfer, THE man at PSG. The club shop reported a 1000% increase in shirt sales in the hour after his transfer was announced and his name will be greeted with the biggest cheer when the teams run out at Parc De Princes each week. At Barcelona, Neymar was undoubtedly a star but in Paris, he will be THE Star.
In Spain, he was, and would have remained in the shadow of Messi. As small as the Argentinian football genius is in stature, he still casts a pretty big shadow. When Barcelona completed their 5-6 comeback against Neymar’s new club PSG in the Champions League back in March, the Brazilian had his best game of the season. Of Barca’s two goals in the dying minutes, Neymar scored one and created the other. At any other club, in any other country, his wild celebrations would have been all over the back pages the next day. But this is Catalan-country and in Catalan-country there is only one God… Lionel Messi (and God obviously, it’s a fairly religious country).
In France Neymar could easily be the best player in that team, he’ll likely be the best player in the country and as far as the club president is concerned he’s the best full stop, declaring during the players unveiling that he was “the best player in the world”. (He followed that up by also saying how handsome he thought his new acquisition was so he could have just been getting a little over excited).
Neymar may not be the best in the world but in his little PSG bubble, there will be many who treat him like he is and maybe that is what he’s really after?
The striker will, of course, face the new challenges he desires at PSG too. Can he maintain top form on the international stage and in the Champions League when not playing at Barcelona’s top level? Can he cope with the pressure that comes with being the World’s most expensive player or will he “Do a Pogba”? But most challenging of all, having agreed on a deal worth a reported £27million a year… how will he manage to spend his £70,000 A DAY earnings?
Go for it Neymar Jr…. I believe in you!
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On The Left Side is THE alternative football podcast. No tactical analysis or heat maps here just a sideways look at the very best stories from the beautiful game in a handy bite sized form. From commentary catastrophes to managerial misdemeanours. Jim guides you through a satirical look at the last seven days of football funny.