Neymar’s dilemma is real. If you try to look at the situation objectively, it’s easy to understand why he would want to move to a team where he’s promised the world and more. Top billing and a handsome contract at Paris Saint-Germain would be attractive to many players. On the other hand, who would want to leave Barcelona, perhaps Europe’s best team over the last decade, and the luxury of playing alongside Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi?
It’s certainly not black and white. Many people have been in situations with various similarities and not had a clue of what to do. Neymar’s a 25-year-old who has some people telling him one thing and others telling him another. Go to PSG, take the money, be the star and win the Ballon d’Or is being whispered in one ear. In his other ear, cheap nfl jerseys as Gerard Pique confirmed in a news conference at FedEx Field on Tuesday, he’s got the Barca players.
“In Paris, if he doesn’t win the Champions League he won’t get the recognition he will deserve,” Pique said. “That’s his only option in Paris, because, with all due respect, it’s an inferior league. He still has doubts, but we’re trying to convince him [to stay].”
That said, Neymar could have gone about things better. As difficult as the position he’s in is — especially with so much vitriol on football Twitter — he owes it to his teammates and the supporters to be honest. It’s not fair for others to have to speak for him.
There is an element of theatre to it, of course. On Tuesday, while the rest of the Barca players slumped on the ground and stocked up on liquids after their training session in the Maryland evening sun, he entertained the crowd by taking several penalties. Then, when the rest of his teammates trudged off down the tunnel, Neymar instead jumped over the barricades into the stand behind the goal he’d been taking penalties in. There sat his dad, the ringleader of this whole circus, enjoying the drama from the front row. Neymar gave him a kiss and then looked at something on his phone. Nothing particularly abnormal about that, but given the circumstances, it could easily be perceived as playing up to the cameras.
After all, Neymar’s future has caused a media storm throughout Barca’s American tour. Barca landed last Wednesday and put Sergi Roberto and Jasper Cillessen in front of the media the next day. Both were inundated with questions about Neymar. Roberto had to request that the gathered journalists ask about something else. The next day, at Red Bull Arena, Sergio Busquets and Ernesto Valverde suffered the same fate. Valverde, again, speaking after Barca’s win over Juventus on Saturday, had to clarify Neymar’s position at the club for the second time. On Monday morning, it was Jordi Alba. And on Tuesday, it was Pique and Javier Mascherano, the former clearing up that his tweet at the weekend suggesting Neymar “stays” was just his gut feeling, nothing official.
In the middle of all this, Barca are supposed to be preparing for a new season under a new coach. But there has been little focus on that.
Even on the pitch, the focus Saturday was on Neymar with his two brilliant goals against Juve at MetLife Stadium. If being the centre of attention is what he needs, if that’s really why he is weighing up a move to Paris Saint-Germain — not because of money; not because the French club can offer a better sporting project — then he’s definitely getting what he wanted.
There has been staggeringly little said about Messi or Suarez, Neymar’s trident teammates at Camp Nou during the tour. That despite Messi returning to the club in an interesting phase in his career. Now 30, we have less Messi left than we have already seen, and he’s set for a more central role under Valverde. Against Juve he was good — albeit overshadowed by Neymar’s show — and Diario Sport report that he broke his previous GPS preseason records in relation to kilometres run, acceleration, top speed, speed over 20 metres and aerobic capacity.
It was almost lost on Tuesday that Barca are actually here to play Manchester United in the International Champions Cup — not to play out Neymar’s next move. That in itself would usually bring its own angles. Pique used to play for United and speaks highly of them. It would have been interesting to hear his thoughts on how they’re shaping up under Jose Mourinho. And Mourinho. Former Real Madrid manager Mourinho. What about the morbo? Admittedly Barca’s news conference was cut short — they were caught in traffic on route to FedEx Field — but there was no interest in anything other than Neymar. Not really.
Maybe on Wednesday that will change. Maybe United will hammer Barca and we’ll have a premature debate about whether Barca’s current generation is in decline for the 10th time. Maybe they’ll hammer United, with an inspired performance from Carles Alena and we can all talk about why he’s better than Neymar anyway. Maybe we will have infinite other things to talk about.
But that doesn’t change how terribly this situation’s been handled. It’s understandable that Neymar is struggling to make a decision, but it’s unfair that his teammates are left to answer the questions while he posts cryptically on social media and maintains his silence.
The silence is likely to drag on, though, Barca’s tour continuing to slip by in the background. If United here can’t change that, maybe a Clasico in Miami against Real Madrid can? After all, it’s not expected there will be a definitive answer either way on Neymar’s future until the Catalan side have left the States.