Neymar to PSG: A Look Inside the World's Biggest Transfer Deal
On Tuesday, July 18, the landscape of European football began to change forever, as transfer news broke that Neymar was ready to accept an offer to play for PSG.
A report from Brazilian outlet Esporte Interativo stated the news would become official in the coming weeks and that the French club were planning to meet his €222 million release clause.
Very quickly, the story of the summer began to escalate.
From the original scepticism, it began to become clear there was a foundation to the tale, and here we are, 17 days later, with the news confirmed and images all across the world of Neymar Jr. and his No. 10 PSG shirt.
What a moment. What a signing.
I have been delving deeper into how it all became possible, and the best place to kick off was by speaking to the man who got the scoop.
Breaking the Story
Journalist Marcelo Bechler was about to eat dinner at home in Barcelona when he received a phone call he would never forget.
"My contact started to tell me about the whole story with Neymar," he explained'. "The more he spoke, the more I began to realise the impact of what he was telling me.
"I called my director to tell him what I had heard, and he wanted to go live with the information right away. But I knew it was too big to get wrong. I needed more sources."
Bechler went to bed, sleeping on the information that would potentially rock the world of soccer.
After an early start to begin making calls to back up his information, he was soon confident in the story.
At 3 p.m. he was ready to go live with the information.
"I made calls around Spain, Brazil and France, and once I had three more contacts that had been able to give me specific details, I knew I could be absolutely sure with the story.
"I still only reported about 30 percent of what I had heard, because I wanted to be absolutely correct in what I was putting out there. I knew this would be global news."
The World Reacts
He wasn't wrong. Within hours, the story had spread around the world, and everyone in football was taking an interest.
Bechler was suddenly a man in demand. He gave interviews across 20 countries and struggled to access his social media because of the sudden attention.
Fans were either full of cynicism about his story or wanted to know more. Everyone was searching out nuggets of extra information behind the stunning tale.
"I knew it would be huge, but not on that level," Bechler said. "I had so many journalists getting in touch, and I tried to speak to all of them because I understand the type of pressure they would have been under in that moment to find out what was going on.
"My social accounts were suddenly hard to get into. Twitter had hundreds of notifications within two minutes, and I had to block my Instagram from the public because people had begun to write on my page, and it is something personal away from football and my job.
"This was certainly the first time I had experienced something like this as a journalist."
Bechler was reporting that Neymar, a global superstar, was accepting an offer to leave the Spanish giants.
One thing that puzzled almost everyone, though, was why the player would come to such a decision.
Why Neymar Decided to Leave
There were a few reasons behind Neymar's decision to consider a future elsewhere, but one major moment that sparked this sequence of events was when Lionel Messi signed a new contract at Barca to extend his stay until 2021.
There is no suggestion that any problem exists between Neymar and Messi. In fact, the opposite is true, as they have a good relationship both on and off the pitch.
However, Neymar had been weighing up his chances of being the best player in the world and knew this was becoming more problematic.
From Neymar's point of view, he was not going to become the best player in the world if he was not even the best player at Barcelona. And for the next four years, that was going to be the case.
He came to the realisation that if he is to become regarded as the globe's No. 1 player, he would have to move on.
One of the other reasons Neymar became so intrigued by a switch to PSG was the Brazilian bond that already exists within the walls of the club.
Thiago Silva, Marquinhos, Lucas Moura and now Dani Alves are all on board in Paris.
Such factors can mean a lot to players when considering a transfer, and this was clearly an important issue in Neymar's decision-making.
It is also thought the ambition and direction of PSG became appealing at a time when some issues with Barcelona officials were starting to bother Neymar and his father.
How PSG Took Command
PSG chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi has been dreaming of landing a new elite player who could take the club to new levels both on and off the pitch.
A move for Cristiano Ronaldo had previously been considered, but the level of investment needed would not have been so worthwhile, particularly given the fact he is now into his 30s.
They knew Messi was out of reach, so Neymar was identified as the next best option.
Not only did PSG get the feeling he was looking for a new project, but their moneymen also felt he could prove good value at the age of 25.
It is understood they were given signs by Neymar's father that it would be worth opening discussions, and PSG never looked back.
They are owned and financed by Qatar Investment Authority, and that clout gave them an opportunity no other club could get close to matching.
On top of meeting a whopping £196 million release clause, PSG began serious talks about a seven-figure signing-on fee and a potential five-year deal worth more than £500,000 a week—after tax.
"A serious move for Neymar was PSG's way of showing that they are after the best talent in the market," Bechler explained. "They are trying to improve, and this was their clearest way of doing that."
The player was intrigued by the promises being made and decided he would join the French club.
Barcelona team-mates spoke to him about the situation, and there was a brief moment when it seemed he would decide not to go ahead with a transfer.
But representatives were surprised by suggestions he would stay at Barca, and by the time Neymar stormed out of a training session following a row with new signing Nelson Semedo, the writing was on the wall.
Story of the Decade
After an American pre-season tour with Barcelona, a promotional appearance in China and a pit stop in Dubai, Neymar flew into Barcelona and said his goodbyes to team-mates.
The biggest transfer in modern times was going ahead.
Understandably, the club had tried to convince him to stay, and when they couldn't do that, they tried to drag out the deal. After all, they had to show supporters this superstar was not allowed to leave without a fight. And they had to start making moves of their own to replace him.
But as plans were put in place to unveil him in the French capital, Esporte Interativo journalist Bechler was left to reflect on the wildest period of his own career.
"So many people have tried to find out how I got the information," he explained. "But as a journalist, you have to protect sources, and I have never had any doubt about what I reported. People in Neymar's camp are definitely wanting to know who I got the story from, but none of that matters now.
"I will certainly not forget that phone call I received at dinner one Monday night!"