In the summer of 2013, Barcelona pulled out all the stops and explored all possible avenues in the hope of securing a deal that they saw as a monumental step forward in preparing for life after Lionel Messi.
The Catalans eventually succeeded in signing Neymar, amidst all the chaos surrounding the fee which was to be exchanged between the two clubs. Soon after his arrival, Barca were accused of crossing exorbitant and illegal limits in order to secure the player, which included breaking international law, evading taxes and even changing Presidents to achieve the task of signing a player that could potentially be Messi’s heir at Camp Nou.
Little did they know that after four magnificent seasons in Spain, Neymar would be on his travels again. However, Barca now find themselves in uncharted territory, a complex situation which has been ruthlessly thrusted upon them by Paris Saint-Germain.
The French giants have made a remarkable statement by paying his €222m release clause and – in the process – absolutely smash the world record for a transfer, something which the Catalan giants couldn’t see coming. To rub salt in the wounds, the Brazilian’s father also reportedly collected a €25m loyalty bonus, only a couple of days prior to Neymar’s move from Spain.
Although Neymar’s move to PSG could prove to be largely instrumental for him on an individual level, which arguably was his main narrative behind the move, it could also be extremely detrimental to Barca and their pursuit of landing an heir to Messi’s throne, at large. The former Santos star leaves behind a huge void, not only on but also off the pitch.
The transfer has taken place at a time where, in terms of quality, there are next to no direct replacements available, and it’s risked provoking a scenario where any deal for that player would be totally dependent on the seller’s will, aware that Barca are desperate to fill the gap as soon as possible.
Kylian Mbappe is the closest thing to a like-for-like replacement for Neymar, in terms of position and talent, but he represents an obvious compromise on age and experience. Furthermore, for Barca to enter the race the Monaco sensation, they would have to spark a bidding war – one that Real Madrid would likely win.
Elsewhere, the Blaugrana have already seen a €72m bid for Liverpool attacker Phillipe Coutinho rejected. However, Coutinho’s arrival would force the Catalans into mixing things up tactically, given his tendency to operate in a relatively-deeper role than Neymar. Moreover, the playmaker has recently signed a new contract with the Reds, who have so far held their own in negotiations and seem to have no interest in parting with their prized asset.
Paolo Dybala and Antoine Griezmann are two more names that Barca have been heavily linked with over the past week, but – like Coutinho – will inevitably warrant a different system and a tactical reshuffle. Griezmann would only be an option next summer due to Atletico Madrid’s ban on registering new players. although Dybala has never made any secret of his desire to play alongside Messi.
Ousmane Dembele is the most likely out of the aforementioned names to join Barca, but his position remains a topic of debate as the Borussia Dortmund starlet features primarily on the right wing and likes to cut in on his favoured left foot, possessing a similar playing style to a certain No 10…
Neymar’smove to PSG is indeed a transfer of extremes in every aspect, not just for the player himself and the world of football but also Barca and their quest to replace him adequately. It’s a challenge, made all the more harder in such unforeseeable and unforgiving circumstances, but one they must accept.