Heading into the summer, one of the biggest storylines will surround Neymar and whether the Brazilian star will finally make the move to European football.
For Barcelona, the answer to that question will be vital, and the Catalan club must strike now and land the Santos talisman.
Well, if the player is willing to make the move, that is. From Paulo Freitas of Sky Sports:
Santos seem keen on striking a deal, having already confirmed talks with Barcelona and Real Madrid.
"If people are saying other things, then they know more than I do. Many people say what they want without knowing anything. But this is how things are."
Neymar's father added the following:
Barcelona are waiting for Neymar but for 2014. A project is in place to see how he will fit there. We are 'dating' so to speak but there is no concrete deal.
They put people next to Neymar to see how he would work and Real Madrid do the same thing in the same way.
Two things became apparent for Barcelona against Bayern Munich in the Champions League semifinals: The team is lost without Lionel Messi against elite competition, and the top sides in Europe are starting to figure out how to beat Barca's tiki-taka approach.
In other words, the team needs to add more world-class talent, and a little bit more flair certainly wouldn't hurt. It seems odd to suggest that a team with Messi, Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez, Cesc Fabregas, Dani Alves and Gerard Pique needs more talent, but after being physically dominated by Bayern Munich, it's hard to deny.
And boy, oh boy, would Neymar bring an infusion of talent to the left wing for Barcelona. His ability to take defenders one-on-one and force double-teams would give Barca a second talisman on the attack beside Messi and clear space for his teammates.
His pace and vision down the wing would give La Liga right-backs fits, and his ability to drift centrally and score goals at a proficient rate would take some serious pressure off of Messi's shoulders. So long as Neymar recognized that Messi was the team's primary weapon, the duo would be scary together.
But you get the impression that Barcelona will have plenty of competition to land Neymar, and waiting until next summer to do so could make other teams more appealing.
If Bayern Munich win the Champions League next year and continue to dominate into next season—that seems likely, seeing as Mario Goetze will be joining the ranks, which is a scary thought—might they become a more intriguing option for Neymar?
If Cristiano Ronaldo ends up leaving, vacating Neymar's preferred left wing position, could he decide to head to Madrid rather than Barcelona?
Neymar will be playing for _______ next season.
It's long been thought that the Catalans would be the favored side to land his signature. But with the balance of power in European football seemingly shifting, Neymar may choose to weigh his options if he remains at Santos for another season.
He's a good fit for Barcelona and a much-needed talent. For Barca, sealing the deal with Neymar this summer is crucial.