The Inside Story of Neymar's on-Again, off-Again Transfer to Barcelona

Dean Jones@DeanJonesBRFootball Insider at Bleacher ReportSeptember 3, 2019

B/R Football
B/R FootballB/R Football

For most of the summer, Barcelona waited for Neymar to go public with his desire to return to the Camp Nou.

Privately, all parties knew what the world's most expensive footballer was seeking. With a statement over his intentions, it may well have happened.

Neymar and his representatives opted against speaking out, though, and the closest we came to any sort of come-and-get-me plea was delivered via Rivaldo's Instagram account. 

Last week, the former Barcelona star posted a picture of Neymar on his account, with a caption that translated as (per The Sun): "We know everything that happened to @neymarjr. His departure from @fcbarcelona was wrong, he should have never have left one of the biggest clubs in the world.

"But he is eager to come back. ... Let the @fcbarcelona president and everyone on the board not let @neymarjr go to another club. I hope it gets resolved with @psg and he can get back to where he should have never left."

Neymar's father liked the post—and insiders from both Brazil and Spain told B/R it is safe to assume that this was a well-constructed PR stunt to let the world know how Neymar was feeling—without him saying the words himself. 

FC Barcelona Fl @FCBarcelonaFl

🎙 Rivaldo: "Neymar never should have left Barcelona and he made a mistake going to PSG." #fcblive https://t.co/KI5Z4CBJOy

The saga began at the end of last season. 

Neymar was not enjoying life in the French capital quite as he thought he would and winning the UEFA Champions League had not become a reality. And while he had hoped to become the world's best player, he was once again not even the most exciting player in his team, this time thanks to Kylian Mbappe rather than Leo Messi.

From a club perspective, there was reason to consider a sale for the first time.

Dressing room arguments with Edinson Cavani and Julian Draxler (among others) had caused problems, while there was also concern over his partying—which particularly agitated sporting director Leonardo. 

On top of that, there was the obvious issue that he had missed so many matches since completing his 222 million transfer in 2017. Neymar missed 21 matches in his first season before being absent for 22 games in his second term.

Many of those matches across both campaigns were due to foot injuries with long recovery periods. 

It was in mid-June that Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi finally lost patience publicly, amid increasing rumours that Neymar was angling for a move back to Spain.

"I want players that are ready to give everything to defend the honour of our shirt and who sign up to the club's project," Al-Khelaifi said to France Football (h/t Evening Standard).

"Those who do not want to, or do not understand it, we meet and we speak. There are of course contracts to respect, but the priority now is complete commitment to our project.

"Nobody forced him [Neymar] to sign here. Nobody pushed him to. He came with a full understanding of the cause to sign up to a project."

PARIS, FRANCE - MAY 18: Presnel Kimpembe, Dani Alves (hidden by the trophy), assistant coach Zoumana Camara, Neymar Jr of PSG celebrate winning the 'French Championship 2018-2019' during the trophy ceremony following the French Ligue 1 match between Paris
Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

Neymar Jr. has spent the past three months convinced he would get his move to Barcelona. 

Sources from all three parties—PSG, Barca and Neymar—assured B/R this summer that a move was possible.

While Real Madrid and Juventus did look into the situation, it was Barca that always stood out as Neymar's preference.

Friends and family back in Brazil were poised for the moveeven Messi was onside with the return, voicing his support from inside the Camp Nou dressing room.

But for this transfer to happen, certain pieces had to fall into place.

Firstly, Neymar was told through intermediaries that he would need to accept a wage drop. There was no way he could earn more than Messi at Barcelona.

Secondly, while PSG's Qatari owners were open to a deal, it had to suit them. They would drop as low as €200 million on a cash deal, or suitable players would have to be added on top of a cash offer.

Thirdly, Barcelona had to somehow find the funds to make it all work. The early summer signing of Antoine Griezmann made the entire Neymar return project trickier than it would have otherwise been. 

On the first point—Neymar was accommodating. Sources insist he accepted the need to drop his salary. 

The second point was a constant issue. Throughout talks there were leaks of a cash bid of around €130 million—with various players thrown into the deal.

It started with Philippe Coutinho being pushed in the direction of Paris—an idea the French club were open to. But as that prospect faded, exchange ideas would eventually include Nelson Semedo, Samuel Umtiti, Arthur, Ousmane Dembele, Ivan Rakitic and Jean-Clair Todibo at various times.

Trying to include players—particularly various ones within the same deal—is one of football's trickiest arts, according to figures that negotiate such deals. It's the notion of so many different contracts, personalities and preferences that make them so complex.

The third point could have been worked on, had the players agreed to the move. One report in Sport suggested that Neymar was willing to pay 20 million himself—and that has been backed up by our sources.

PARIS, FRANCE - APRIL 27: Kylian Mbappe #7 and  Neymar Jr #10 of Paris Saint-Germain look on before the Coupe de France Final match between Stade Rennais and Paris Saint-Germain at Stade de France on April 27, 2019 in Paris, France. (Photo by Catherine St
Catherine Steenkeste/Getty Images

So, what happens next?

Neymar Jr. announced to team-mates on Saturday that he would be staying, and he must now re-integrate with the group. 

There will be no immediate issues. The player is willing to show professionalism and dedication as Paris aim for success domestically and in Europe.

But there is still next summer on the horizon, when this entire saga will continue again. 

Newspaper reports in Spain are already reporting that Neymar will be back to Barcelona in 2020, but let's look out for one aspect that has not yet been highlighted.

Next summer, there is a high chance Real Madrid—as well as others—will try to sign Kylian Mbappe. Are PSG really going to let both players leave in the same window?

Consequently, there are still more chapters yet to be written in the latest Neymar tale. 

Listen to Dean every week on the B/R Football Ranks podcast. Subscribe here



The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.