Football Features

“No one ever leaves” – The winners & losers as Neymar fails to secure PSG exit

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 8:40, 3 September 2019

After a summer of continuous speculation, Neymar is staying at Paris Saint-Germain after all.

Despite all the rumours about the Brazilian wanting to leave earlier in the summer, and PSG’s own sporting director Leonardo confirming that if a suitable bid was received he would be open to selling the world record signing, well… nothing has happened.

It looked sure that Barcelona would manage to bring him back, all the rumours pointed that way, with players who were rumoured to be makeweights in the deal like Ivan Rakitic and Jean-Clair Todibo managing just 45 minutes between them so far in Barcelona’s La Liga campaign. It seemed certain that he would once again nestle into Leo Messi’s shadow.

Hell, at one point Real Madrid even emerged as a credible alternative, with Florentino Perez seemingly still aching to sign a player he missed out on all those years ago. Los Blancos supposedly offered a massive player swap-deal that would have rivalled the one that Boston Celtics put together to get Kevin Garnett, both in terms of sheer numbers and also the incoherence of the group in general.

But each time, PSG rebuffed advances, holding out for better deals that never came. So Neymar will have to make do with another season in Paris. But who are the winners and losers of this situation? Read on and find out!

Winner: Qatar Sport Investments

No one leaves PSG unless they want you to.

It’s as simple as that. Each time a player may consider leaving, they are put firmly in their place and if they’re big enough, they are usually given a fat new contract to keep them happy. Qatar is not a state used to being told what to do, whether that’s in regards to workers’ healthcare rights, or their World Cup bids. They pretty much do what they want, so you either have to get in line or run down your contract (thanks Jean-Marc Bosman!) to leave. But even then they craft your exit, like a nation state version of Malcolm Tucker.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic was allowed to leave on a free because PSG valued the service he had given to them and felt they had enough of a team to carry on without him (they did not). Adrien Rabiot tried to leave on a free after his initial contract demands were turned down and PSG did not want him to, so he spent the vast majority of 2018/19 exiled from the senior squad before finally walking away to join Juventus.

Neymar’s contract expires in 2022, so even if he wants to run it down he has a long wait. With that in mind, even though every reliable journalist with any sort of connection to PSG agreed that the Parisians were sick of Neymar and wanted him out, they refused to give him away in a deal that didn’t suit them. They demanded enormous sums of money or high-value players in return, and when those demands were not met they simply walked away. Even though in situations like this, the selling club’s hand is nearly always forced by the player, PSG’s hand remains unmoved. They will not budge. Neymar leaves on their terms or he doesn’t leave at all.

Their terms were not met, and Neymar did not leave.

No one ever leaves.

Loser: Neymar

It has to suck to be Neymar, doesn’t it? Cast your minds back just three years ago and Neymar was unstoppable. He had led Brazil to their first ever Olympic Gold in 2016, while less than a year later he led Barcelona to that ridiculous 6-1 comeback against PSG and he was their best player by far in the Champions League defeat to Juventus.

Alright his finishing had become what you could charitably describe as wayward, but this was a player ready to assume the throne of best player in the world just as soon as Leo Messi slipped up. Hell, with the way their relationship was developing on the field and given how much the public, at-large, values goals, Neymar could have become ‘better’ (i.e. scored more) the very next year.

Then he joined PSG for a world record fee – a price so large it more than doubled the previous record, mind you – and even though it was a massive risk and made very little footballing sense, he was lauded for his bravery stepping out of the Leo Messi comfort zone. This was going to be his team, and he was going to forge his own legacy.

Since then it’s been one disaster after another, from clashing with Edinson Cavani over set-pieces; to his foot turning into a time bomb that explodes every February; to his growing unprofessional attitude and diving antics that peaked with the 2018 World Cup, what should have been his World Cup. However, it descended into him getting dominated off the pitch by becoming a meme for diving, and on the pitch by a teenage club team-mate who went on to win the whole thing, equalling records set by Pele along the way. No one talks about the trophies Neymar’s won (because the Champions League is the only trophy folks care about when it comes to PSG) nor the great football he’s played. Just the bad things.

Paris has become a nightmare. He wanted to go back to where it was good, and he tried almost everything he could to force an exit. With almost any other club in the world, his tactics would have worked. But now he has to suffer at least one more season in Paris, despite knowing that the club really don’t want him to be there. That’s got to sting.

Winner: Kylian Mbappe

Despite all the noise and negativity surrounding Neymar’s career at PSG, he has actually been excellent for the Parisians. The reason they paid so much money (€222m) for him is because he was second-only to Leo Messi in terms of world-class talent. No one besides the Argentine could offer his blend of creativity, goalscoring prowess and just general attacking dominance.

He’s played 58 games for PSG, scoring 51 goals and notching 29 assists. He’s a magnificent player and with him pulling the strings, Kylian Mbappe would have found it so much easier to impact the big games that PSG wanted him to in 2018/19. Without Neymar the young Mbappe struggled to knock Manchester United out of the Champions League and got sent off in the Coupe de France final. So yes, Neymar staying is fantastic news for Kylian Mbappe’s development on the pitch.

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Loser: Kylian Mbappe

However, Neymar staying is not good news for Kylian Mbappe’s development off the pitch. By all accounts Mbappe is a serious pro, but Neymar has a much more relaxed attitude towards, well, everything. That’s not to say he’s lazy, but his love of parties often hampers his recovery from injury and his petulant attitude on the field makes him a poor leader.

The way Neymar expected to be handed everything at PSG, including all set-pieces, was just absurd. He and his father carry with them a toxic atmosphere that grows unchecked in a locker room devoid of strong leadership like PSG’s. You can see the effect Neymar is having on Mbappe with the youngster growing more petulant and aggressive as time goes on. Of course he may never adopt Neymar’s lackadaisical attitude, but continued exposure to the Brazilian (as well as new signing and consistent trouble-maker Mauro Icardi) could mean that the other childish nonsense could become more frequent, and that would definitely hamper the game of what seemed to be a serene and level-headed young boy.

Winner: Barcelona

This may seem counterintuitive in that, if you’re Barcelona and you desperately need pace and threat out wide in attack, why would you be a winner for missing out on Neymar? Well, firstly, Barcelona are already spending too much on wages and given what Neymar earns, signing him wouldn’t exactly help with that, even if they shift some of their higher earners to offset the balance.

Secondly, their main wing-threat is now Ousmane Dembele and the Frenchman’s only real weakness is that he picks up injuries frequently because of an unhealthy lifestyle. Trusting in the Frenchman to become more professional as he gets older (and thus make good on his immense talent) makes more sense than ditching him now to bring in a proven manchild who earns a vastly higher wage and seems to have a chronic problem with his foot.

Thirdly, whilst Dembele may be rough around the edges in terms of professionalism, he is also just a kid. Neymar, meanwhile, should be mature enough to have sorted himself out yet he acts just as childish as he did before proper grown-ups like Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets and Leo Messi sorted him out at Barcelona. Now there are still veterans there who could probably keep Neymar in check but they are all 32. What happens when they get too old to be regular fixtures and Neymar becomes the chief voice in the locker room? PSG 2.0, basically.

With Dembele, Carles Perez and Ansu Fati, Barcelona have some sublime young wing talent. If the club was to bring in another winger to bolster the ranks (not a terrible idea) it should be a youngster who fits in with the current crop, or a mature veteran who can be their guiding light. Neymar is neither, and would simply deny minutes to young players who desperately need them, blocking the progress of La Masia. And so, by missing out on Neymar, Barcelona may have saved their soul.

Loser: Ligue 1

The last time PSG lost their talismanic No 10 was 2016 when Zlatan left them and then they got thwarted by Monaco, losing Ligue 1. And whilst the Principality side aren’t contenders this year, the likes of Lyon just might be and PSG losing Neymar would have been a huge boost to the rest of Ligue 1, with the possibility that the Parisian juggernaut could be caught and stopped.

Well now he’s staying. And he’s gonna be mad about not getting that move. He’s gonna be mad about people thinking Brazil don’t need him (they won the 2019 Copa America without him in the summer) and he’s gonna be so mad that people doubt his ability all because he’s a diving goofball who gets injured every Spring. He’s gonna be out to prove himself, and that’s not good news for Ligue 1.