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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

Neymar's move to PSG a blow to Barcelona's status atop football's food chain

Brazilian forward is set to seal a world record move to the French club in a move

Neymar is set to leave Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain in a world record move. Tim Goode / PA Wire
Neymar is set to leave Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain in a world record move. Tim Goode / PA Wire

Barcelona send an average of four press releases to the media close to the club every day, a level of communication which exceeds other giant clubs. One they didn’t anticipate sending this close season was to announce that Neymar, one of their star players, had, along with his father "communicated his decision to leave the club".

“Against this position, the club have referred to the player’s buyout clause, which since July 1 has been €222 million (Dh968.3m) and must be paid in full.”

This was followed on Thursday evening with another statement announcing the latest development in Neyma'rs proposed move.

"Neymar Jr's legal representatives visited in person the club's offices and made the payment of €222m in the player's name with regards to the unilateral termination of the contract that united both parties," it read. "As such, the club will pass on to Uefa the details of the above operation so that they can determine the disciplinary responsibilities that may arise from this case."

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Barca cules, the fans who made them the second best supported team in world football last season with average crowds just shy of 80,000, had feared this was coming. They don’t want to lose one of their brilliant attacking triumvirate of Lionel Messi, Neymar, Luis Suarez to a wealthier club in a glamorous city and put posters up near Camp Nou calling the Brazilian a mercenary and traitor and saying Barca should only use players who love their shirt.

That is selective and rival fans have little sympathy, for it is they who often lose their best players to Barca or Real Madrid, the two teams usually at the top of the football transfer chain. How good would Valencia have been had they been able to keep hold of David Villa, Andre Gomes, Jordi Alba, Juan Mata, Juan Bernat and David Silva?

Paris Saint-Germain, backed by Qatari money, are intent on smashing that. The proposed move is still surprising from a footballing perspective as former Barca striker Gary Lineker recognized when he tweeted that the only way is down after Barca.

Barca have always been better than PSG, who they habitually eliminate from the Uefa Champions League. Camp Nou is over twice the size of Parc de Princes, the Primera Liga is much stronger and more popular league than Ligue 1, yet that weakness adds strength to Neymar’s argument to leave. What if he can turn a very good PSG side into European champions, just as Diego Maradona turned a very good Napoli side into Italian champions? The Argentine never regretted leaving Barcelona for Naples and Neymar would be the main man in Paris, not the man in Messi’s significant shadow.

Neymar has already demonstrated that he can inspire a side when he is the man expected to make things happen and be the team’s match-winner. He impressed for Brazil at the World Cup finals in 2014, a tournament where he shouldered the expectations of millions of Brazilian people expecting success on home soil.

He did not let them down, and it was a cruel blow that his tournament ended on a stretcher with a broken bone in his back at the quarter-final stage. So there should be little doubt that he is capable of carrying a team’s aspirations without having Messi and Suarez to share the limelight and workload.

A post shared by Leo Messi (@leomessi) on

Money is clearly a major factor, too, yet football transfer fees have long shocked and awed. Matt Busby, one of the two greatest Manchester United managers, stepped down as a club director after making his feelings known about the then British record transfer fee of £1.5 million (Dh7.24m) for Bryan Robson in 1981. So good was Robson, that fee soon looked cheap.

By 2016, United had broken the world transfer record for Paul Pogba.

“When we paid that amount for Paul I said that he was not expensive,” Jose Mourinho said on Wednesday. “Expensive are the ones that get into a certain level with a certain quality. I think Neymar is going to happen the same. I don’t think he’s expensive, I think he’s expensive now you are going to have more players of £100m and £80m and £60m and I think that's the problem.

“Neymar is one of the best players in the world, commercially he’s very strong and PSG have thought about it, so I don’t think the problem is Neymar but the consequences (of his probable transfer)."

A post shared by Luis Suarez (@luissuarez9) on

It’s a blow to the Primera Liga, which long boasted that while England’s Premier League is more popular, they had better teams, better football and better players, including the ones which annually dominate the Ballon d’Or awards.

La Liga, which has aggressively marketed its league globally using Neymar-class players, will not help the move go through, but money tends to triumph in football’s avaricious capitalist ethos.