On August 3rd 2017, the months-long speculation came to an end. Neymar Jr, age 25, signed a five-year contract binding him to PSG. Earlier that day, he had paid via his lawyers the release clause of 222 million euros. Barcelona notified UEFA while La Liga attempted to block the transfer.
The question now is whether the transfer will be acknowledged by UEFA or if Neymar will be forced to either remain a free player or unable to play.
The last two options would hurt his World Cup prospects, as Brazil, first qualified nation not counting Russia, is set to prove to the world what South America already knows – the team trashed by Germany in 2014 no longer exists.
However, until that is answered, let’s review the history of Neymar’s rise – not extent of polemics.
2009-2013: The Wonder Kid from Brazil
Neymar debuted in Santos, the club where he had been developing since age 11, at only 17 years old. Soon enough, his skills surpassed the Brazilian/South American sphere and were known around the world. He started being compared to Robinho and Pelé, and European clubs began to prepare the briefcases.
West Ham offered 12 million pounds, and Chelsea upended the offer with 20 million. Santos, however, refused, and Neymar insisted he was only focused on Santos.
However, Wagner Ribeiro, who was also Neymar’s agent at the time, gave a statement that sheds light on current events:
“He wants to become the best player in the world. The chances of him doing that while playing in Brazil are zero”.
With that in mind, he waited. He was key in Santos’ first Copa Libertadores win in 2011, 48 years after the previous one during Pelé’s days. He won a Puskás award, leaving behind goals from Premier League and UEFA Champions League. One of those runners-up was made by a certain Lionel Messi.
The rumors kept on growing, as Santos president Luís Ribeiro announced Real Madrid had tried to sign a pre-contract with Neymar. In November 2011, two months later, the latter signed a contract extension until after the 2014 World Cup. He appreciated Barça and Real’s interest, but by then, his choice was to stay in Santos.
The following two years featured Neymar trying to win as much as he could in his country and continent. He was voted as the Best Player of Recopa Sudamericana in 2012, was crowned for the second time the best player in the region and won another Campeonato Paulista
The First Irregular Transfer
May 25th 2013: having won everything in Santos, Neymar announced his decision to move to Barcelona. The club later stated they had paid 57 million euros for the player.
But polemics soon rose, and they were no longer about whether Neymar dived or not. On June 5th, DIS Esporte, who had 40% of Neymar’s card, announced that the 9,3 million euros received did not match their share. One week later, they sued, and Santos was forced to admit they hadn’t received 100 thousand euros due to them (only getting 17 million).
Barça had to begin with the clarifications. The 7,9 million euros on preferential rights for three other players were not part of the deal. Nothing else was stated at the moment.
However, frictions between socis had been rampant then and are rampant now. Therefore, as December came and Neymar was getting used to Europe, Jordi Cases sued the club on misappropriation of funds.
According to him, the transfer had cost 74 million euros, 40 million of which had been given to Neymar’s parents in the dark. The club claimed this amount had been clear since day one.
On January 22nd 2014, judge Pablo Ruz began gathering information for a lawsuit against president Sandro Rossell. One day later, vice-president Bartomeu assumed control of the club, as Rosell resigned. Another day passed, and everything was confessed: the transfer had cost 57,1 million euros (10,1 million more than originally announced) and an extra 40 million for the parents.
February 20th, 2014: Fútbol Club Barcelona is charged with tax fraud. Bartomeu pays 13,6 million euros in order to save face. Neymar defends his father’s share. The charges are dropped in September, but the club’s image is tainted.
2013-2017: The Point in the Trident
Neymar spent the better part of the 2013-2014 season adapting to top European rhythm and dealing with the controversy that was now directly surrounding his father. With that sorted out, and after a trophy-less season, he focused on the World Cup. Rendered out of it by a dangerous challenge in the quarterfinals against Colombia, he healed and returned to the club.
Once he was healthy and well, and Luis Suárez served out his ban, he began proving key in games, leading Barça to a treble right after a trophy-less season. Minimal polemics went on – mostly involving ball tricks during leads – but otherwise, he was soaring. The era of the MSN had begun.
With it, came further individual recognitions, including a Ballon d’Or shortlist in 2015. However, he came in third behind Messi and Ronaldo.
His importance kept on rising, the prime example being the 6-1 against PSG. After Cavani scored the 3-1, everyone went down, Messi included. Three goals for nothing but perhaps honor.
Nevertheless, Neymar persisted. He took the team on his shoulders and pushed for more goals. He scored a free kick and a penalty. His will is what motivated the team to keep fighting. And because of that, they eventually succeeded.
The Second Irregular Transfer
As per every transfer window, rumors about Neymar leaving for PSG, Manchester United, Manchester City or Chelsea rose.
This transfer window, PSG rumors kept growing. Neymar was silent, and the club denied everything. Then, however, began the “signs of weakness”: doubt, desperate avoidance and now recurring to governing bodies, be they La Liga or UEFA.
Meanwhile, the suspicions of the origin of the 222 million euros are now rising, leading to a potential fault at financial fair play. However, as shown in the previous transfer, months will have to pass until we see the full extent of this.
For now, Neymar will focus on building his own legend in Europe, in a team that always falls short of going through the Champions League Round of 16. Only time will tell if he makes it, or if his legacy will be tainted by money laundering claims, tax evasions and rendering financial fair play to the dust.
Or even whether those will be seen as taints or simply symptomatic of what football has now become.
— GB Articles (@gbarticles) August 3, 2017