Escaping Messi’s Shadow Is Sensible for Neymar, but He Needs to Deliver at PSG
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Escaping Messi’s Shadow Is Sensible for Neymar, but He Needs to Deliver at PSG

The deal is done. Neymar is now officially a Paris Saint-Germain player. The French side are now lighter to the tune of £198 million, but keeping the oil pumps running for about 30 seconds longer than normal should cover that for the club’s Qatari owners.

It’s a transfer that has shocked football to its core, both in its financial size – Neymar is reported to be on wages of £500,000 a week after tax – and the fact that PSG have been able to snatch a player of his stature from the Catalans.

The fee is absurd, but money is immaterial to PSG – provided they adhere to football’s Financial Fair Play rules – it is about their project. That project is to win the Champions League; Neymar has to deliver.

But why has he made the move to Paris? One very logical, and mercenary, conclusion to draw is the lure of the almighty dollar (or Euro in this case). Neymar and his father, who acts as his advisor, have done extremely well out of this deal. But he was hardly on the bread line at Barcelona, so if money is the driving factor then it is a hugely disappointing chain of events.

Taking to his Instagram account, Neymar wrote: “I have won all that a player can win. I have conquered everything an athlete can conquer. I have lived unforgettable moments. But a player [me] needs challenges.”

So Neymar wants a new challenge. Domestic duties such as an away trip to Angers, or a home game with Amiens – who PSG will face this weekend – are hardly going to be a challenge for a player who has his eye on the ultimate individual football award, the Ballon d’Or. While Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are around, he’s not likely to get his hands on the prize. Those two are streets ahead of the rest of the pack.

Neymar knows Messi is king at Barcelona so it’s not the craziest move to head away from the Camp Nou to escape the Argentina superstar’s shadow.

When he pens his memoirs later in life, if Neymar is honest he will have to say that PSG was not his preferred destination. There are greater challenges, and competition, in the Premier League and Serie A. The problem he faced was no other club was prepared to meet his near £200m buyout clause.

As previously stated, for the Qataris and their oil wells such money, and Neymar’s wages, is chump change. What they now have is one of the sport’s most marketable figures, and with Qatar looking to win over their many detractors ahead of the World Cup in 2022, that is a valuable commodity.

Neymar is 25 and is eyeing World Cup glory with Brazil in 2018. PSG’s owners are probably more interested in how he fares in the lead up to the 2022 World Cup. If Neymar is winning things with club and country, the value his face will be on promotional material for their World Cup will be priceless.

It’s a move that makes sense for PSG. Neymar now has to prove it’s a move that makes sense for him.

Ligue 1 titles will not do that. AS Monaco shocked PSG last season, but the heart of the Principality side has been gutted by deep-pocketed vultures. If PSG do not reclaim the domestic championship it will be a huge upset.

The target for Neymar is to lead the club to Champions League glory. It was a task that proved beyond even the mighty Zlatan Ibrahimovic, with the best the club achieved were runs to the quarter-finals.

Neymar will now be the man to pick up that baton. He will have everything he needs to succeed; the rest of the team will be set up to serve him – in a way Barcelona do Messi and Real Madrid do Ronaldo – it’s a case of whether he has it in him to take the chance.

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