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17th Aug 2019

Barcelona and Real Madrid have lost their heads in pursuit of Neymar

Wayne Farry

Chasing Neymar might be the worst decision Barcelona and Real Madrid have made in a while

Professional football clubs are well-run businesses. They make decisions that will benefit their bottom line, indeed they are often criticised for doing so rather than focussing on footballing matters.

But if there’s one benefit in focussing on the business side of things it’s that – in theory at least – sensible decisions are made. This is why teams scout for months or even years on end, across continents and leagues, to ensure that their investments are made with the best information to hand, and that the chance of failure is as low as possible.

Every now and then a club goes and perplexes people by making a decision that goes against their ethos or planning, and very occasionally a couple of clubs do it at the same time, shattering the veneer that the adults are in charge and know what they’re doing.

One of these moments is currently taking place in the form of Barcelona and Real Madrid’s pursuit of Neymar.

If reports are to be believed, Spain’s two biggest clubs are currently fighting it out to sign the Brazilian, who has grown tired of repeating the perpetual Paris Saint-Germain cycle after just two seasons in the French capital.

No one really knows where Neymar would rather be, other than the fact that he no longer wants to live or play in Paris, but one can safely assume that he will choose the club that is willing to pay him the most.

His reasons for wanting to move, regardless of your thoughts on him either as a person or player, are understandable.

PSG, for all their riches and cultural cache in the lifestyle scene, strike most people as a soulless behemoth, guaranteed domestic success by virtue of their finances but unable to make the step and join Europe’s old money.

Neymar likely feels he has gone as far as he can at the Parc des Princes, and with a situation like this that thought alone makes it a self-fulfilling prophecy.

For all of Neymar’s reasons, though, this does not explain why either Barcelona or Real Madrid are even vaguely considering bringing the player to their clubs.

According to various stories published this week, Barcelona are willing to offer Philippe Coutinho, Ivan Rakitic and €80 million, while PSG would rather receive Coutinho, full-back Nelson Semedo and €120 million.

Real Madrid, meanwhile, appear willing to let wunderkind Vinicius Junior go, presumably with a shit load of money, to ensure they get their hands on his compatriot.

It’s worth mentioning that Barca paid more than £130 million for Coutinho when they bought him from Liverpool in January 2018 to fill the Neymar-shaped hole in their Brazilian shirt sales, and that Madrid were so keen to bring Vinicius to the Santiago Bernabeu that they signed him the day he turned 18 for £40 million.

Barca learned quickly that Coutinho isn’t Neymar, neither in performance nor marketability, and as such have decided that they want back the boy who couldn’t play nice with Lionel Messi anymore.

Madrid – and if reports are to be believed, specifically Zinedine Zidane – have decided that they can’t wait for Vinicius and Rodrygo to mature into the players they might become and that they need Neymar’s football quality now. Nothing to do with the fact that Ronaldo is no longer at the club and that Gareth Bale is persona non grata.

Both clubs have better options out there – whether it’s Raheem Sterling, Kai Havertz or someone else that will also cost an arm and a leg but are unlikely to be toxic figures after a short period of time – but none of them are as big as Neymar in terms of star power, and that’s the driving force behind the interest.

For Madrid this isn’t knew, their Galacticos culture has been going on for years, but there had been a slight departure during Zidane’s previous spell. This is a sign that they are now happy to go back to signing stars, whatever the cost.

For Barca though, that they are willing to break the bank on Neymar despite knowing exactly what kind of person he is, it is the clearest sign that – ‘Mes Que En Club’ proclamations or not – they are laying their cards out on the table and illustrating that it’s marketability and money rather than team cohesion that they now seek.