What if Neymar had never left Barcelona for PSG? How would the footballing look like today if the Brazilian superstar never moved away from Camp Nou?
PSG shattered the world record for the most expensive transfer in the history of football when they paid €222 million to Barcelona for Neymar in 2017. The world record at the time stood at €105 million; the amount Manchester United paid Juventus for Paul Pogba.
He is easily the third most recognized footballer in the world. It’s no wonder PSG decided to snap the superstar when they could. However, various reports and rumours have since emerged signalling that Neymar is looking to make a comeback to Camp Nou after regretting moving in the first place.
It remains to be seen if Barcelona will go all out for their prodigal son in the summer transfer window. However, today we will be exploring all the possible scenarios that would have taken place had Neymar stayed put to begin with.
What if Neymar had never left Barcelona for PSG?
Neymar was bought in from Santos to Barcelona in 2013 as a long-term heir to Lionel Messi. The Brazilian was expected to occupy the throne when the Argentine called it a day. However, Neymar believed he was too talented, understandably, to be spending his best years as second fiddle.
He spent four years at Camp Nou and won a multitude of trophies including a treble in his second season. However, he decided it was best for him to take the next step in his career and subsequently moved to Paris.
His World record move to get there however, changed the footballing world in more ways than one; both directly and indirectly.
Transfer market may have not inflated as quickly as it did
First and foremost, the most visible impact of the transfer on football has been the rise of the price for the players in demand. What was once a record fee has now become a norm with the selling club now in power to demand astronomical fees.
It was not uncommon for creative midfielders and attacking players to command higher bids. However, now even defenders and goalkeepers are going for above 50 million. For instance, Aymeric Laporte joined Manchester City from Athletic Bilbao for £57.2 million; a Frenchman who has not yet represented his country.
In hindsight, he turned out to be a great purchase for the club. However, there are also several examples of players who cost a fortune and are yet to come good on their price such as Naby Keita for Liverpool or even Barcelona who massively overpaid clubs in their pursuit of a replacement for Neymar.
The Catalans paid, €105 million for Ousmane Demebele and €120 million for Phil Coutinho; both of whom have been nowhere near the standard set by Neymar during his stay with the club.
To put this in perspective, Barcelona paid €82.3 million for Luis Suarez in 2014, just 3 years before Neymar’s departure. An exorbitant amount then that looks like a bargain now.
Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho summed the situation up during his stint as Manchester United boss during a press conference.
“I think he’s expensive in the fact that now you are going to have more players at 100 million pounds. You are going have more players at 80 million and more players at 60 million. And I think that’s the problem,” he said.
Neymar’s career could have possibly thrived
Neymar left Barcelona in an attempt to escape Lionel Messi’s shadow. Ironically the move seems to have fired horribly. The Brazilian has performed as well as he should in his time at Paris. However, his career has been plagued with controversy, lack of discipline and injury since his move.
He can also break all the French league records and will yet carry the stigma of playing in possibly the least competitive league of Europe’s top domestic leagues; unless he singlehandedly wins the champions league for Paris Saint Germain.
One can argue that during his time with Barcelona, the forward was more down to earth, responsible and even a better team player. Joining a team, where he immediately thought of himself as the alpha, evidenced by his spat with Edinson Cavani on the field, has hurt his image and painted him as prima-donna.
He has now begun to gel more with his team. However, in the eyes of many, he now stands a spoiled man child. One, who could have become the best player in the world but threw it all away. It is possible that had he stayed at Neymar’s development would have continued and not stagnated in the manner that it has.
The Brazilian is undoubtedly still one of the best players in the world. However, it is unlikely that he will be in the discussion for the Balon d’Or for some time now.
Barcelona could have won another Champions League
It is very possible that with Neymar in their squad, Barcelona would have added to their Champions League collection.
The Blaugrana have resorted to playing make shit wingers on the left flank since the Brazilian’s departure. Coutinho and now Antoine Griezmann have been played out of position there to less than satisfactory results despite the huge cost to recruit them.
The only player who can actually play in that position (Dembele) spends more time in the medical room than the field.
If Neymar had never left Barcelona, these players would never have been required at Camp Nou.
Both Neymar and Messi have thrived when playing alongside each other and there is no reason to suggest why the pair wouldn’t have continued to do so.
It is very likely that Barcelona could have splurged on other areas of concern instead of bolstering their attack for ridiculously high prices every season with so little to show for.
Liverpool would have continued to struggle
Neymar went to PSG to grow as a player but found his development stunted. PSG splashed the cash in their pursuit of the Champions league and still do not have the trophy in their cabinet. Barcelona on the other hand, used that cash to bring in a replacement for the Brazilian. However, they are still struggling to find a suitable player.
None of the parties involved in the transfer have come the better of it. In the end, it seems that the biggest beneficiary of the transfer was a team from England.
Liverpool had been on the rise for some time now under Jurgen Klopp. They were back playing champions league football and had begun assembling a side worthy of putting up a challenge in all competitions they played in.
However, awash with the money from PSG, Barcelona knocked on their doors for Phil Coutinho. The Reds managed to resist the Spanish giants for a while. However, they eventually lost their best player to them in January 2018 .
Liverpool used some of that money to solve their defensive issues and bought in Virgil Van Dijk from Southampton for £75 million. The rest of the money was used on bringing in Alison on goal and soon enough, they charted their path of domination.
Liverpool went on to lose only once in the entirety of the 2018/19 season of the Premier League. They even won the Champions League, ironically beating Barcelona with Phil Coutinho in the semi-final. Both Van Dijk and Alison starred in the spectacular campaign. The Dutch defender even earned a Balon d’Or nomination and finished 2nd only behind Lionel Messi.
Mass exodus at Merseyside
Without the cash from the sale of Coutinho, Liverpool would have never purchased either Van Dijk or Alison. With no competition in the market, Van Dijk would have likely ended at Manchester City; who only purchased Laporte because they missed out on the Dutch skipper.
Players like Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and perhaps even Roberto Firmino, would have eventually left the club to pursue their ambitions after yet another trophy less season.
Manchester City would firmly be atop the Premier League table. As a result the English competition would slowly transform into yet another one-horse race; much like the other European domestic leagues.
Jurgen Klopp has rightly been credited with the resurrection of Liverpool. However, it is mighty possibly that the sleeping giants would have remained in their coma if Neymar never decided to leave Barcelona in the first place.
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