World Football Transfers: 25 Hypothetical Destinations for Brazil Star Neymar
Brazilian teenager Neymar is world football’s hottest commodity. Still only 19, the Santos forward’s livewire performances have already drawn comparisons to the likes of Pelé and Robinho. He’s notched over 60 goals for club and country (including an impressive 42-goal haul for Santos last season) and looks set to become a permanent fixture in the Green and Yellow XI for years to come.
Neymar is arguably his country’s brightest prospect since Kaká. Blessed with outstanding technique and close-control, explosive pace, and clinical goalscoring ability, Neymar is already a player of immense talent. He’s versatile too, and as dangerous cutting-in from wide positions as he is in the penalty box. There is real belief among Brazil supporters that football is about to witness the growth of one of its all-time great players.
His talents haven’t gone unnoticed either. Although Neymar is contracted to Santos until 2014, it’s unlikely that they’ll be able to hold onto their prized asset beyond summer. A reported bid from Chelsea has already been rejected and it will take a sizeable sum to take Neymar abroad, but there’s not a team in the world that wouldn’t want him in their squad.
With several of Europe’s elite reportedly plotting summer bids, Neymar’s transfer is almost inevitable. Here are the top 25 clubs he may end-up playing his trade for next season.
Malaga have undergone something of a revolution since Sheikh Abdullah Bin Nasser Al Thani’s 2010 takeover. The likes of Julio Baptista, Martin Demichelis, and Ignacio Camacho have already joined the club, and Malaga’s new owners are showing no signs of tightening their purse strings after a busy January window.
Malaga hardly seem like Neymar’s most attractive option. The team are currently languishing in La Liga’s relegation zone, with only a difficult 8-game run-in (including fixtures against Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, and Bilbao) to save them. The big-name signings have, for the most part, failed to deliver. Money and big names are no substitutes for team spirit and togetherness: Sheikh Abdullah and Malaga are discovering this the hard way.
Despite their poor league positions, Malaga’s financial clout is considerable. Blessed with the Sheikh’s great wealth, there’s not a wage demand that Los Boquerones cannot match. Neymar to Malaga seems unlikely, but the appeal of cold, hard cash should never be underestimated.
Qatari football’s most successful club, Al-Sadd have 11 Qatar Stars League titles to their name and the oil-rich country’s vast wealth has already attracted the likes of Kader Keita and Alfonso Alves to the Middle East.
Mohammed Bin Hammam has spoken of a need to bolster Qatari football’s reputation ahead of the 2022 World Cup, and what better way to do that than by bringing one of the game’s brightest starlets to the Stars League? Training facilities and stadiums are set to see massive upgrades ahead of the World Cup. The only thing the league will be lacking is star power and prestige, and Neymar would bring bucket-loads of both.
Neymar would be excellent for the Qatari League, but would the League be good for him? Absolutely not. If Neymar is to reach his full potential and make the most of his dazzling clubs then he needs to be playing on the world’s biggest stage. This is something Qatar will never be able to offer him. Like Malaga, Qatar can offer him little more than great wealth.
23. Zenit St. Petersburg
2008 UEFA Cup Winners Zenit St. Petersburg are, without question, Russian football’s top dogs. Recent European triumphs aside, Zenit achieved a domestic double in 2010 by winning the Premier League and Russian Cup. They’ve already picked-up their first piece of silverware in 2011 (the Russian Super Cup), and few would bet against them adding to this tally before the year’s end.
Zenit may lack the glitz and glamour of Neymar’s other potential destinations but their plus points are numerous. In Luciano Spalletti Zenith have one of Europe’s most talented coaches, and their talented squad includes the likes of Bruno Alves, Aleksandr Kerzhakov and Igor Denisov. The Sine-Belo-Golubye can offer Neymar a starring role in Russia’s top side as well as regular Champion’s League and Europa League football.
Many Brazilians have made the Russian Premier League their home over the years, but Neymar’s arrival would bring unparalleled star power to a league that badly needs it.
An unlikely destination given chairman Dietmar Hopp’s insistence that Hoffenheim’s big-spending days are over, but still a fascinating proposition. Software tycoon Hopp has ploughed millions into the club since 2000 (including €60m on Hoffenheim’s new Rhein Neckair Arena stadium). With the team now stable in the Bundesliga it’s understandable that Hopp is looking to scale his spending down, but can Hoffenheim match their ambitions without his funds?
A fifth-tier side prior to Hopp’s investment, there’s no doubt that financial outlay has greatly accelerated Hoffenheim’s meteoric rise. Currently sitting 10th in the Bundesliga (nine points from relegation) after last season’s 11th-place finish, Hoffenheim’s league positions have stagnated. With astute manager Ralf Rangnick now at Schalke, it seems like Hoffenheim’s current personnel have taken the club as far as they can.
That’s where Neymar comes in. If Hopp is willing to spend again, Neymar is exactly the kind of player his team will need to shoot up the Bundesliga. Signing the Brazilian phenomenon would show great ambition, and give Neymar a starring role in one of the most popular leagues in the world.
Fitting Neymar into Napoli’s starting XI will mean tinkering with the 3-4-2-1 system that has brought them so much success lately, but the attacking possibilities are mouth-watering. Neymar, Edinson Cavani, and Ezequiel Lavezzi have the collective attributes to form one of the most potent attacking tridents in world football.
Acquiring Neymar may leave Napoli’s squad somewhat unbalanced, but manager Walter Mazzarri has the tactical acumen to make it work. Cavani is an explosive goalscoring who’s having the best season of his career and Lavezzi is one of the world’s most effective second strikers. Add Neymar’s ability to operate in wide areas to the equation and Serie A defenders will be quaking in their boots.
Still in the hunt for their first Scudetto since 1990, Napoli are enjoying their most consistent period of success since the Diego Maradona years. Qualification for next season's Champion's League seems certain, and who better to spend all that extra revenue on than Brazil's brightest prospect?
20. Schalke 04
Why FC Schalke 04 haven't won the Bundesliga since 1958 is one of modern football's greatest mysteries. Die Knappen have always been there or there abouts, and haven't finished outside the top eight in almost a decade. They've made the top five six times in the past nine years (including three runners-up finishes) and won the German cup in 2002, but Bundesliga success has eluded them for over half a century.
One of Germany's best-supported sides, Schalke's financial difficulties have been well-documented recently. This season's Bundesliga performances have been mediocre (hence Felix Magath's recent sacking), but Schalke fans have plenty reasons to be cheerful. Their team are still going strong in the Champion's League after last week's impressive 5-2 thrashing of Inter Milan, and new manager Ralf Rangnick brings a wealth of experience to the Veltins Arena.
A Neymar bid seems unlikely given their financial situation, but the Brazilian could do a lot worse than sign-on with the Gelsenkirchen side. If Neymar's goals and assists were to help fire the club to a Bundesliga title he would should go down in Schalke folklore. Schalke already possess a quality side, and Neymar's addition would surely push them towards title contention.
19. Shakhtar Donetsk
Another Eastern European powerhouse, Shakhtar are the reigning Ukrainian league champions and one of the wealthiest football clubs in the continent. Shakhtar certainly have the fiscal clout to attract Neymar, and like Zenit they can almost guarantee him European football on a yearly basis.
Neymar would surely feel at home with the club's six other Brazilian players, and his playing style seems tailor-made for Shakhtar's system. Comparable to Barcelona, Shakhtar's possession-based high-pressing game is as effective as it is aesthetically-pleasing, and Neymar would have little problem linking-up with the likes of Jadson and Luiz Adriano.
Whether or not he'd like to live in the Ukraine is an entirely different matter. If bigger clubs from warmer climes seek his services then it's unlikely he'll end-up in Donetsk. Domestic success in the Ukraine, unfortunately, does not build the kind of prestige Neymar will be looking for.
Marseille's domestic season has been built from the type of gritty, hard-fought games that fans have come to expect from Didier Deschamps' men. They're still in the title hunt, but an average of just under 1.5 goals per game this season speaks volumes about this season's Olympique side.
It's not like they lack quality attacking players. Loic Remy, Andre-Pierre Gignac, and Mathieu Valbuena are full France internationals, and the promising Ayew brothers (Andre and Jordan) have impressed this term. Maybe it's negative tactics, or maybe it's that the strikers just don't play well together: either way, Marseille's front-line needs revitalising.
Marseille may not be able to match Neymar's most lavish wage demands, but where better to play your trade than in the 60,000-seater Stade Velodrome in the south of France?
AS Roma are under new ownership after one of the most drawn-out takeover processes in recent memory. There's a lot of uncertainty around the Giallorossi at the moment with the futures of key players and caretaker manager Vincenzo Montella in-doubt. New owner Thomas DiBenedetto has a lot of work on his hands, and one of his first tasks will be to tinker with the playing squad.
Fransceco Totti has long been Roma's talisman, but he's 34 now and not getting any younger. It won't be long before the club need to seek a replacement for their captain, and that's why signing Neymar makes perfect sense for them.
Although their playing styles are very different, there is much Neymar could learn from playing alongside a player of Totti's calibre. Equally adept as a trequartista or centre-forward, Totti's tutelage could add another dimension to Neymar's growing game and help him grow into one of the game's greatest ever attackers.
Lyon aren't the all-conquering Ligue 1 side they were a few years ago but they're still one of France's biggest clubs. Lyon's seven-in-a-row side will go down in history as one of French football's best ever, but they’re unlikely to match that feat with their current squad.
Finances aside, Lyon’s biggest problem with Neymar would be finding a way to fit him into their system. Michel Bastos is their main attacking threat on the left flank and needs to be given the wing’s full freedom to maximise his effectiveness. Playing him centrally would mean dropping either the bullish Bafetimbi Gomis or the prolific Lisandro Lopez, both of whom Lyon paid a lot of money for.
The previous decade’s success will make Lyon an attractive option for Neymar. If it’s success he craves then he has the talent to fire them back towards the title. Perhaps the allure of following in countryman Juninho’s footsteps and restoring Lyon’s glory days will tempt the young Brazilian.
15. Manchester City
Excellent facilities, a talented playing squad, and the boundless wealth of Sheikh Mansur make Manchester City an extremely attractive prospect on paper, but signing for the Blues could be the biggest mistake of Neymar’s career.
Their frontline is already jam-packed with world-class talent. Edin Dzeko and Mario Balotelli have misfired since arriving at Eastlands, but both are players of immense quality who will eventually come good. Carlos Tevez has been one of English football’s deadliest strikers for years now, Adam Johnson is developed into a fine attacking winger, and David Silva has had little trouble adapting to the English game.
There is no way that City could sign Neymar without upsetting at least one of the above, and although the Brazilian’s natural talent arguably outweighs them all, would signing him be worth the damage it would deal to an already-fractured dressing room?
Manchester City could make Neymar one of the best-paid players in the game. He’d no doubt start ahead of the likes of Balotelli and his skills would make him one of the Premier League’s biggest stars. If Neymar is to reach his full potential at his next club then he must resist this allure, as there is too much uncertainty surrounding City to make this a smart move.
14. Tottenham Hotspur
Spurs, on the other hand, would be a much more sensible move. They may lack City’s spending power, but Tottenham’s Champion’s League performances were impressed (prior to the Bernabeu massacre) and they’re just three points behind City in the league with a game in a hand.
Manager Harry Redknapp has transformed Tottenham from a side battling relegation to one of England’s best attacking sides. Their fluid, fast-paced style is perfect for Neymar, who’d have no problem forming cohesive playing relationships with the likes of Luka Modric, Rafael van der Vaart, and Gareth Bale.
Spurs’ squad may lack the star power of City’s, but their players form a unit that plays with the kind of cohesion Roberto Mancini and co. can only dream of. Neymar would slot seamlessly into a line-up that’s already packed with place, and his presence may be enough to transform Spurs from top four contenders to title challengers.
13. AC Milan
Neymar is exactly the kind of player that Silvio Berlusconi and AC Milan should be looking at this summer. Not only would the Brazilian bring some much-needed exuberance to a plodding Milan side, but his presence in the XI would allow Milan to diverge from their narrow playing style and exploit the flanks.
Like Man City, Milan aren’t exactly short of attacking players. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Antonio Cassano, Robinho, and Pato are all wonderfully talent players, but the first three will always be questioned for their volatile personalities and (sometimes) languid playing styles. At least one would have to leave to accommodate Neymar, but why wouldn’t Milan ship-out the stroppy Robinho for the man who’s taken his place in the national side?
Always one of Italy’s biggest clubs, Milan’s lustre cannot be understated. The Rossoneri are on-course for their first Serie A title since 2004 but have long been criticised for their ageing squad and lack of tactical flexibility. Neymar can help change that.
12. Atlético Madrid
Atletico may only be Madrid’s second biggest club but they are still one of Spain’s most successful sides. They’ve had serious financial difficulties over the years and even spent two seasons in the Spanish second tier from 2000-2002 but improving league performances and last season’s UEFA Cup win have re-established their credentials as one of Spain’s finest.
With Diego Forlan and Sergio Aguero leading the line, Atletico may be reticent to spend the speculated €30-40m on another striker. Their financial troubles under Jesus Gil haven’t been forgotten, but if Atletico are to take a chance on a player then who better than Neymar?
The Spanish league is better suited to Neymar’s attributes than any other and Atletico are known for their attacking flair, but how would Neymar fit-in? Sergio Aguero occupies a slightly deeper position but his role is very similar. The two South Americans would either compliment each other perfectly or get in each other’s way. Whether or not the gamble is worth it is for Atletico to decide.
Los Che were written-off almost as soon as they’d sold star players David Villa and David Silva last summer but this season’s La Liga performances have defied their doubters. 16 points separate them and Real Madrid, but Valencia are third in the table and have barely taken their foot off the gas all season.
Juan Mata has shone since the departure of the two Davids, and the form of Pablo Hernandez and Roberto Soldado has helped maintain a high league position. The gap between Valencia and Spains “big two” (Real and Barcelona) is huge, however, and cannot be ignored. Valencia have a lot of work to do if they are to match Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola’s sides again.
It’s unlikely, given Valencia’s massive debt, that they will make a move for Neymar this summer. If they were to splash the cash, though, Neymar is a player who can help close the gap at the top of the table. With Mata on the left, Neymar would likely occupy a central role but would flourish with the service given to him by Valencia’s wide men.
David Villa’s time at Valencia solidified his position as one of the best strikers in world football: there’s no reason that Neymar can’t do the same at the Mestalla.
Some of Liverpool’s performances over the past couple of season have been wretched but the Anfield side are still the most successful side in English football history. The Reds are looking to turn the corner under the Fenway Sports Group’s ownership, and have already shown their ambition by signing Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez in January.
If they’re willing to splash the cash again this summer then they may end-up with the most balanced strike-force in England. Dirk Kuyt is a capable player and a loyal servant, but having the versatility of Neymar and Suarez flanking Carroll would make Liverpool’s frontline truly terrifying.
Liverpool have the prestige to rival any club in the world and have shown signs of recovery under their new owners, but two consecutive seasons without Champion’s League football may put Neymar off. Manager Kenny Dalglish is also only guaranteed a job until the end of the season, and there’s thus far been no word whether he’ll be replaced or kept-on. It would be unwise to rule Liverpool out for such short-term uncertainties, but these things will cause some doubt.
9. Borussia Dortmund
Dortmund’s nine-year spell without a Bundesliga title looks like it’s finally coming to an end. Jurgen Klopp’s side are five points clear at the top of the table with just five games remaining. It hasn’t always been easy for Die Borussen but it would take a monumental collapse for anyone to catch them at this stage, and that looks unlikely.
Under Klopp, Dortmund have cultivated a fast-paced, hyper-aggressive playing style that is as physically-demanding as it is attractive. A high-tempo player himself, Neymar would thrive in such a system. Dortmund’s players are quick, young, and technically gifted: Neymar provides all this and more. His goal-scoring ability would help Dortmund’s Champion’s League charge next season, and his contributions would make him a hero to thousands of Dortmund fans as they usher-in a new era of success.
Signing Neymar would be a dramatic divergence from Dortmund’s recent transfer policy. They’ve bought sensibly, cheaply, and well. The likes of Sven Bender and Shinji Kagawa were signed for nominal fees but have shone brightly, and the likes of Mario Gotze have exploded onto the scene after promotion from the club’s youth system. If the money is made available, Klopp must decide if signing Neymar is worth the risk of breaking his young team’s spirit.
Arsenal's youth development system speaks for itself. Arsene Wenger's scouting network is second-to-none and he's built a successful team by scouring the globe for young talent and signing players for minimal fees years before their peak. Wenger may baulk at paying such a high fee for any single player, but the Arsenal manager has a great track record when it comes to getting the best out of his young players and Neymar's potential is undeniable.
Arsenal can provide Neymar with first-class training facilities and tutelage from some of the world's finest coaches. He'd have everything he'd need to grow into a superstar, and Wenger's ball-retention, short-passing philosophies would see him flourish. Wenger has always seen spending large sums of money as a last resort, but he has always splashed the cash when the right player has become available. With Andrey Arshavin struggling and Robin van Persie as injury-prone as ever, Neymar may just be the right player.
The Gunners' lack of trophies in recent years may prove a stumbling block. Six years is a long time for a club of Arsenal's size to go trophy-less, and things are unlikely to change until Wenger addresses the club's frail defence and lack of a quality goalkeeper. Wenger may have a blueprint for the future, but that's not enough for some players, and Neymar may very well be one of them.
Still reeling from the aftermath of the 2006 Calciopoli scandal that saw them relegated to Serie B, Juventus have had a mediocre domestic season and Champion's League football next season is unlikely. New players haven't gelled as well as coach Gigi Delneri would've liked and it'll be another couple of seasons before the Old Lady can mount a serious title challenge, but Juventus still have their appeal.
No club have won more Serie A titles than the Bianconeri and the club are set to move into a brand new stadium next season. Their squad is littered with quality individuals, and Neymar could benefit greatly from playing alongside the likes of Alessandro Del Piero and Milos Krasic.
A Juventus summer signing spree is almost inevitable. Some of their best performers this season are loan signings, and there's no guarantee they'll be with Juve next season. Alberto Aquilani is enjoying the best football of his career and Fabio Quagliarella was in great form before his season-ending injury, but both could be playing for Liverpool and Napoli respectively next season.
The potential departures of these seven loan players will leave massive holes in the squad that will need addressing. Juventus may elect to spend Neymar's transfer fee on three or four quality squad players, but no individual player could possibly match the Brazilian's impact.
6. Bayern Munich
Another club with a summer rebuilding job ahead of them, Bayern have recently parted company with coach Luis van Gaal after one of the most drawn-out football divorces in recent memory. New manager Jupp Heynckes has a tough task ahead of him but Neymar would bring some much-needed zest to Bayern's frontline.
With Franck Ribery struggling for form after France's 2010 World Cup fiasco, Miroslav Klose set to depart at the end of the season, and Arjen Robben always likely to miss games through injury, Bayern need a new forward. Neymar's ball-carrying ability and explosiveness would be a perfect foil for the free-scoring Mario Gomez, and adding Robben or Thomas Mueller to the opposite flank in a 4-3-3 formation would be devastation.
The bulk of Bayern's summer spending is likely to be focused on their hopeless defence, but Munich would be an excellent place for Neymar to behind his European career. Always one of Europe's biggest clubs, Bayern have had enough success in domestic and European competition to attract any player in the world.
5. Inter Milan
Seemingly the only major Italian club to emerge from the Calciopoli scandal with their noses clean, Inter Milan have been Italy's most successful club over the past ten years. Jose Mourinho and Roberto Mancini delivered Scudetto-after-Scudetto, and new manager Leonardo will be looking to mount a serious charge when he's finished clearing-up Rafa Benitez's mess.
Inter's personnel changes haven't exactly been wholesale since last season's Champion's League victory. Leonardo must find tactical consistency if Inter are to challenge AC Milan for the title, but the squad is almost there. A few quality additions will see them flying again.
Inter's group of strikers already includes Goran Pandev, Diego Milito, Giampaolo Pazzini, and Samuel Eto'o and signing Neymar will give Leonardo options his peers can only dream of. There's the possibility the adding another top striker may cause discontent at Inter but it would also allow the coach to field a number of different attacking combinations. Perhaps, given Leonardo's propensity for chopping and changing his tactics, this is exactly what Inter need.
No English club has featured so prominently in Neymar's transfer rumours than Chelsea and there's a reason for that. Carlo Ancellotti's men are the Premier League's original big spenders and have showed no signs of curbing their spending despite owner Roman Abramovich's suggestions of scaling-back.
Money is not an option: if Chelsea desire a player, they can usually acquire him. The money spent on Didier Drogba and co. has seen the Stamford Bridge side establish themselves as long-term rivals to Manchester United's Premier League dominance, and only European success has eluded them since Abramovich's takeover. Neymar will see Chelsea as an extremely attractive proposition, so why are they only number four on the list?
Three reasons: Dider Drogba, Fernando Torres, and Nicolas Anelka.
Chelsea have had problems accommodating their three star strikers since Torres' £50m January arrival: imagine the trouble they'll have if they sign another top forward. At least one of the above would have to depart for Neymar's transfer to make sense, but that may yet happen over the coming months.
3. Real Madrid
José Mourinho may have added Manchester City's Emmanuel Adebayor as a loan signing in January, but is the Togo international a long-term solution for Real? Gonzalo Higuain is back in action and Karim Benzema's form has improved recently, but given Mourinho's behaviour following Higuain's injury earlier in the season it'd hardly be a surprise if Neymar made a move to Real.
For Neymar, the appeal of becoming the latest Galactico will be immense. Real are the antithesis to the youth development of rivals Barcelona. They'd bought their way to the top over the past few decades and they don't have the best record when it comes to developing young players, but Neymar's talent is already well established. Neymar has the ability to come into Real's team and make an immediate impact, which is exactly what the club would expect of him.
It'd take some tinkering to fit Neymar into the team, but Mourinho has the tactical nous to make it work. Higuain and Cristiano Ronaldo are guaranteed starters but Benzema certainly isn't. Marcelo has been an excellent outlet on Real's left side this season: with him and Sergio Ramos at full-back and Ronaldo and Neymar working the flanks, Real would have enough width to worry any defence in the world.
Defensive balance would need to be established elsewhere in the XI, but José Mourinho and Real Madrid must be licking their chops at the prospect of seeing Neymar in their colours.
2. Manchester United
Sir Alex Ferguson's transfer policy has taken numerous interesting turns over the years. Recently he has shunned big-name superstars for players that are a few years ahead of their peak, and though Neymar will be costly he fits this bill perfectly. Chris Smalling and Javier Hernandez's performances this season have shown the benefits of this transfer blueprint, and Fergie must be looking at Neymar as a potential signing if he is given money to spend this summer.
Neymar may lack Cristiano Ronaldo's power, but he would give United the dynamic forward presence they've lacked since the Portuguese's departure. With Hernandez, Wayne Rooney, and Dimitar Berbatov all in good form United don't necessarily need to sign Neymar, but there's no denying he'd improve them.
Ferguson's tactical adaptability has ensured that the Red Devils have remained a Premier League force despite outgoing transfers, injuries, and under-performing superstars. They look set to win the Premier League this season, but Ferguson must know his squad are a few steps behind Barcelona and Real Madrid. The current squad has performed at a level greater than the sum of its parts, and adding a potentially world-class striker in Neymar will take United to the next level.
Neymar is perfect for Manchester United, and Manchester United are almost perfect for Neymar. When it comes to footballing educations, there is only one club that can rival United...
… where else but the Camp Nou?
Playing for Barcelona is a dream for any footballer, and Neymar himself has expressed a desire to sign for Pep Guardiola's side this summer. Barcelona might be reluctant to spend after getting their hands burned with recent deals for Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Dimitry Chygrynskiy, but let's forget that for a second and take a look at Barcelona's squad.
Lionel Messi, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, David Villa, Dani Alves, Pedro Rodriguez. Think of these players, their chemistry, and the beautiful football they produce together. Now add the world's most exciting football prospect interlinking and switching positions with Messi or making a defence-splitting run to latch onto a Xavi through-ball.
Exciting isn't it?
Barca's tiki-taka system has made them the most dominant side in world football. It's a demanding style that requires technical excellence and the ability to get involved in all passages of play. Neymar not only scores goals but also provides assist and gets involved in his teams' build-up play. He could step into the Barca team and feel at home straight away, and his youth means he's only going to get better.
Neymar and Barcelona are a match made in heaven. Barca's forward players are all well-established in the first-team, but Barcelona play enough games each season to give Neymar enough game-time to aid his development while avoiding burn-out. Disagree? Then think of a Messi-Villa-Neymar frontline and try to stop your mouth watering...
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