Neymar's failed PSG adventure is a cautionary tale for football's superstars 5 months ago

Neymar's failed PSG adventure is a cautionary tale for football's superstars

It wasn't meant to be like this

When Neymar rocked up at the Parc des Princes in August 2017, few people would have imagined that after just two years, he would find himself in this situation, angling for a move away, trapped by his own world record transfer fee.

He thought - we thought - he had found a home, a club that would indulge his outlandish demands where he would flourish as the main man, with the number 10 on his back.

A club as ambitious and flash as he was, and somewhere willing to tolerate the eccentricities that had worn thin at Camp Nou.

There was scepticism around his decision to leave Barcelona, with his main motivation seemingly to escape Lionel Messi's shadow; why would anyone not want to play with the best player in the world? But there was at least an explanation.

From his childhood, when he was nutmegging older kids barefoot in the favelas of Sao Paolo to being the main man at Santos before he was legally able to drink, it had been reinforced in Neymar's psyche that he would go on to be the world's best, to win the Ballon d'Or, the World Cup, everything.


The move to PSG seemed to be his best chance of realising that dream.

But his arrival has not sparked the sort of world domination PSG, and more specifically the Qatari royal family, had hoped for. In the two seasons Neymar has spent in Paris, he has won two league titles and two cups, the bare minimum for a club with almost - and quite literally - unlimited funds.

PSG have failed to reach the semi-finals of the Champions League once in that time, still apparently incapable of overcoming a mental block, susceptible to crumbling when it matters most.

Neymar was supposed to be the medicine to cure their disease, instead he has become stricken with it himself.

And for all the rainbow flicks, nutmegs, long-range screamers and Panenka penalties, the trophy room in his Paris mansion is more barren than he would have ever feared. His time in Paris has largely been style without substance - a tragedy for a player so talented who had spent four seasons lighting up LaLiga, with trophies to show for it. And since the rapid rise of Kylian Mbappé, some would argue he is no longer PSG's best player.

Now, the Brazilian finds himself in a caught in a trap of his own making.

Rumours of a return to Barcelona refuse to disappear, with Neymar reportedly asking to be allowed to return to the Spanish champions. PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi has suggested he would be willing to let his most valuable asset go, saying he only wants players "ready to give everything to defend the honour of our shirt", reiterating that nobody forced Neymar to jump ship.

But where can he go, really?

Barcelona have spent the money they received for him on Ousmane Dembélé and Philippe Coutinho, neither of whom have quite nailed down a place in their team. It would likely require the Catalan giants to offload at least one of them before they could bring Neymar 'home'.

Real Madrid? Florentino Perez loosened the pursestrings after a catastrophic season that highlighted the need for a rebuild, but having already signed Eden Hazard, it's unlikely that he would shell out an astronomical sum of money for a player in the same mould.

Few other clubs have the funds to make the move happen, and those that do - both Manchester teams - would either be a step backwards for Neymar, or do not need him. We'll let you decide which is which.

With seemingly nowhere to turn and at the age of 27, it is not unreasonable to say that joining PSG was the worst decision of Neymar's career. Faced with the choice of playing alongside and learning from the sport's greatest ever player and waiting patiently to inherit his throne when the time came or the instant gratification of being PSG's number 10 and the second best-paid player on earth, Neymar chose the wrong option.

It should act as a cautionary tale for other members of the footballing elite.