Has Neymar played his last game for PSG? French giants have paid injury-prone superstar £97MILLION to play just 80 games in three years… but Ligue 1’s cancellation could give him the perfect excuse to finally push through a dream return to Barcelona
- PSG paid £198m for Neymar in a bid to win their first Champions League crown
- He made the shock decision to leave Barcelona despite being one of their stars
- Neymar has not provided value for money after suffering a number of injuries
- PSG have paid him £97m to play in just half of their games in the last three years
- He has been pushing for a return to Barcelona and Ligue 1 cancellation may help
When Paris Saint-Germain made Neymar the world’s most expensive player of all time, their hopes for what he would achieve were sky-high.
The Brazilian superstar, who cost an eye-watering £198million in the summer of 2017, was supposed to turn the club into a European powerhouse and establish himself as the best player on the planet.
It was claimed that as well as fancying the astronomical wages on offer in Paris, Neymar also wanted to escape from Lionel Messi’s shadow at Barcelona and challenge his friend for the Ballon d’Or.
Neymar became the world’s most expensive player when he joined PSG in August, 2017
The Brazilian has struggled for fitness in France and has suffered a number of injury problems
But instead of leading PSG to Champions League glory and being crowned the world’s best player, Neymar has spent much of his time in France on the treatment table, pining for a return to the Nou Camp.
‘Operation Neymar’, as it was dubbed in the Spanish newspapers at the time, saw PSG rock European football’s hierarchy when their Qatari owners sanctioned a shock move for the former Santos man, paying his release clause to seal a deal.
Barca were furious with both the Ligue 1 giants and Neymar, who had been seen as a natural successor to Messi – both on the pitch and commercially – whenever the legendary Argentine decided to hang up his boots.
The Brazilian, however, insisted that his motivation for leaving Spain, where he formed a deadly attacking trident with Messi and Luis Suarez, and won eight trophies in four years, including two LaLiga titles and the Champions League, was all to do with personal ambition.
‘I am extremely happy to join Paris Saint-Germain,’ said Neymar after signing a lucrative five-year contract at the Parc des Princes.
‘Since I arrived in Europe, the club has always been one of the most competitive and most ambitious.
Neymar formed a deadly trident with Luis Suarez (left) and Lionel Messi (right) at Barcelona
The PSG forward is currently back in Brazil with football on hold due to the coronavirus crisis
NEYMAR AT PSG
Transfer fee: £198million
Games PSG have played since he joined in August 2017: 155
Honours: Ligue 1 title (2017-18, 2018-19), Coupe de France (2017-18), Coupe de la Ligue (2017-18)
‘And the biggest challenge, what most motivated me to join my new team-mates is to help the club to conquer the titles that their fans want.
‘Paris Saint-Germain’s ambition attracted me to the club, along with the passion and the energy this brings. I played four seasons in Europe and I feel ready to take the challenge.’
One of the ‘titles’ Neymar referred to in his first speech as a PSG player was the Ligue 1 crown, with Monaco having caused an upset by beating the big spenders to top spot in the 2016-17 season.
Finishing above Ligue 1’s 19 other teams has not proved an issue for The Parisians since Neymar’s arrival, with back-to-back league titles secured with relative ease.
The input from their main man, however, at least in terms of games played, has not been what PSG’s ambitious owners would have hoped for. Neymar has made just 52 top-flight appearances across three seasons.
The 28-year-old has been plagued by injuries since making the move to Paris. First there was a fractured metatarsal in February, 2018, which brought a premature end to a promising first season at the club.
The Brazilian has only featured in half of PSG’s games because of injuries since joining in 2017
Neymar, pictured in action in January, earns around £600,000 a week with the Ligue 1 giants
Then, in the 2018-19 season, another foot injury kept him out of a crucial Champions League encounter with Manchester United. He watched from the sidelines as PSG were knocked out and was later banned for three matches for complaining about the referee awarding a late penalty on Instagram.
Last summer he suffered a broken ankle for Brazil, then hamstring and rib injuries after returning to action for his club. It has been nothing short of a nightmare.
All of those problems have meant Neymar has played just 80 of a possible 155 games in all competitions for PSG since joining almost three years ago. That’s just 51 per cent of their matches.
In that time, he has been paid a whopping £97m in wages, which equates to more than £1.2m per appearance. The club’s total expenditure on Neymar so far stands at almost £300m – and there’s more to come.
That’s not to say that when he has been on the pitch, he’s been a disappointment. Neymar has scored an incredible 69 goals in his 80 appearances, with 47 in 52 Ligue 1 appearances and another 14 in just 17 Champions League ties.
One of those came in PSG’s last game before football was shut down due to the coronavirus crisis as he grabbed the opener in a 2-0 win over Borussia Dortmund, helping send Thomas Tuchel’s men through to the quarter-finals 3-2 on aggregate.
Neymar celebrates after helping send PSG into the Champions League quarter-finals
Their run to the last eight represents their best performance in the Champions League since before Neymar arrived and keeps alive the club’s ultimate dream of conquering Europe for the first time in their history.
It doesn’t, however, make up for the multitude of problems Neymar has caused over the last year, having seemingly become frustrated with life in Paris.
In April 2019, he appeared to punch a fan in the face after losing the Coupe de France final to Rennes. A few months later, he went AWOL in Brazil and failed to return to pre-season training on time. And then there was the flirting with Barcelona.
Despite being sued by his former club over the return of loyalty bonus, the Brazilian emerged as Barca’s top transfer target last summer. He was desperate to go back.
Neymar made it clear to club officials and manager Tuchel that he wanted to reunite with Messi, Suarez and the rest of his former team-mates, and reports suggested that PSG were open to cashing in on their injury-prone star.
However, despite offering a number of players in part-exchange, Barcelona were unable to come up with the money to strike a deal and Neymar stayed put.
Neymar, pictured celebrating with Messi in 2017, is keen on a return to Barcelona this summer
The club’s desire to bring back the forward, particularly with Messi closing in on his 33rd birthday, remains undiminished, and they are certain to make another serious attempt when the transfer window eventually reopens.
The LaLiga champions have financial issues of their own to cope with, particularly with football in Spain on hold amid the coronavirus pandemic, but they may feel that the cancellation of the Ligue 1 season, which was announced on Tuesday, provides them with the perfect opportunity to tempt PSG into selling.
Neymar, who earns £600,000 a week, and his team-mates have rejected pay cuts and talks over a compromise have stalled, leaving PSG in a tricky situation.
They still have a crucial Champions League quarter-final to play, but with games in France banned until at least September, and the future of the competition still uncertain, nobody knows if it will even go ahead.
It may well turn out that Neymar has already played his final game for PSG. If he has, the club will be short of a superstar, but noticeably better off financially.
For the man in question, a move to Barcelona would be a dream come true. Again.
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