Neymar’s Barcelona return remains tricky despite Lionel Messi’s approval

Barcelona aren’t even talking to PSG about Neymar and Ernesto Valverde’s priority remains landing Antoine Griezmann… only an intervention from old pal Lionel Messi will help Brazilian seal his dream return to the Nou Camp

  • Neymar’s return to Barcelona remains unlikely despite the player’s desperation
  • The Brazilian is desperate to link up with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez again
  • However, Ernesto Valverde’s is prioritising the capture of Antoine Griezmann  
  • Claims that PSG and Barca are in advanced discussions are wide of the mark

Neymar’s return to Barcelona remains unlikely despite the player being desperate to link up with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez again this summer.

Nasser Al Khelaifi got tough this week telling Neymar that if he wasn’t prepared to give everything for the project then he knows where the door is.

There’s a toll on that door of course. Neymar doesn’t have a release clause but it’s understood his contract does allow him to walk away from the club after two seasons for the same amount of money he cost when Paris Saint-Germain bought him in 2017.

Neymar's return to Barcelona remains unlikely despite the player being desperate

Neymar’s return to Barcelona remains unlikely despite the player being desperate 

The Brazilian wants to link up with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez once again this summer

The Brazilian wants to link up with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez once again this summer

The Brazilian wants to link up with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez once again this summer

As things stand Barcelona do not have that £198million to buy back the player they sold two years ago, and Real Madrid even less so. 

There is also no way either club could pay his £31m net wages.

Neymar’s enduring friendship with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez – who recently called him the second best player in the world – are his Barcelona lifeline. 

If Messi’s fondness for his former team-mate extended to him asking the club to resign Neymar then that would carry huge weight. But Messi’s interventions in the club’s decision are infrequent and so far this has not been one of those incidences.

On an institutional level Barcelona are still involved in a court case with Neymar over a claim by Brazilian investment fund DIS that they were paid less than they were entitled to because they owned a percentage of Neymar’s player rights when he switched to the Nou Camp.

But claims that PSG and Barcelona are in advanced discussions to send Neymar back from where he came appear wide of the mark – lines of communication between the clubs are almost non-existent. 

Neymar's enduring friendship with Suarez and Messi are his Barcelona lifeline

Neymar's enduring friendship with Suarez and Messi are his Barcelona lifeline

Neymar’s enduring friendship with Suarez and Messi are his Barcelona lifeline

There is still bad feeling over PSG paying Neymar’s buy-out clause and there has been no business done between the two clubs since.

For coach Ernesto Valverde Neymar’s return would offer as many complications as solutions. He appears to be within days of getting the player he originally asked the club to sign when Neymar was sold. 

If, as expected, Antoine Griezmann signs on July 1 then Valverde will have his front three for next season sorted. He never really wanted Ousmane Dembele and much less Philippe Coutinho. 

Neymar joining would create a ridiculous situation of six players for three positions – and one that would be totally unsustainable in terms of salaries.

That’s why even the optimistic reports emanating from Brazil that a deal is close talk of a player exchange involving either Coutinho or Dembele (Ivan Rakitic and Samuel Umititi have also both been mentioned but the sale of neither would solve the overbooking problem).

Barcelona are happy not to shoot down the suggestions they could bring Neymar back. Anything that means they don’t have to talk about Griezmann who they are not supposed to be signing – at least not until July 1 – is helpful. 

Ernesto Valverde will have his front three sorted if Antoine Griezmann joins on July 1

Ernesto Valverde will have his front three sorted if Antoine Griezmann joins on July 1

Ernesto Valverde will have his front three sorted if Antoine Griezmann joins on July 1

But privately they are briefing that they are not trying to bring back the 28-year-old Brazilian.

One fan poll in Diario AS had 67 per cent of almost 22,000 voters preferring Neymar’s signing over Griezmann’s. 

Their online fan base are enthusiastic but it’s hard to imagine the club’s more conservative core membership looking too fondly on the re-recruitment of player currently embroiled in various off-the-field problems and who chose to walk away from the club just 24 months ago. 

It hardly harmonisises with their call for Barca to become ‘more than a club’ once more and build a team from the youth system that once produced two-thirds of the side that dominated Europe before Neymar turned up.

Any move for him would have to appease them. Neymar would have to apologise to the club for walking away. A toe-curling redemptive press conference might be ‘doable’. 

That’s the word that has circulated in the past couple of days to describe the operation to bring him back to Catalonia.

Reports in Brazil have talked of a player exchange involving Philippe Coutinho (pictured)

Reports in Brazil have talked of a player exchange involving Philippe Coutinho (pictured)

Reports in Brazil have talked of a player exchange involving Philippe Coutinho (pictured)

But just how doable finding the money to pay PSG a minimum of £198m and the player a minimum of £31m a season net is more open to doubt. Yes Coutinho could go in the other direction but Neymar would not tie up his boots back at Barcelona for Coutinho’s wages.

Real Madrid continue to watch the whole charade from afar. When Neymar left Spain in 2017 Florentino Perez believed bringing him back to the Spanish capital would be a coup. 

But that dream has waned in the subsequent seasons. Neymar did not win the World Cup with Russia in 2018. He has not made it to the Copa America on home soil this summer. 

He has not won the Champions League or the Balon d’Or since leaving Messi’s shadow. 

Signing Neymar would not bring Barcelona the heir to Messi's throne - that is Kylian Mbappe

Signing Neymar would not bring Barcelona the heir to Messi's throne - that is Kylian Mbappe

Signing Neymar would not bring Barcelona the heir to Messi’s throne – that is Kylian Mbappe 

Signing him would not be signing the heir to Messi’s throne – Messi’s heir goes by the name of Kylian Mbappe and Madrid are now focussing all efforts on signing him next summer.

It’s also significant that, judging from Nasser Al Khelaifi’s comments this week, signing Neymar would also no longer be inflicting a blow on the all-powerful PSG.

As Catalan paper El Periodico’s columnist Sonia Gelma wrote on Tuesday: ‘The fact that PSG want to sell him, should be the most solid argument not to sign him. Bad business.’