Neymar’s reported €222 million transfer from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain has sparked wild expectations from one side and dawned an almost cataclysmic fate for the other.
In a sense, rightly so. Outside of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, the Brazilian superstar is the cream of the crop when it comes to fantasy transfers, and PSG fans can’t be faulted for imagining a season of gluttonous success to follow – should his move eventualise.
As for Barca fans, no matter what the compensation turns out to be financially, there is one simple truth that comes with his possible departure: there is no immediate replacement.
There is no player in world football who, if we are to believe would be evaluated as a viable option, could immediately slot into the Barcelona side and produce the same kinds of performances that the 25-year-old has done in his four seasons at the club.
However, aside from all the personal financial gains Neymar will make and, if various reports are to be believed, his need to ‘break free’ of Lionel Messi’s shadow so that he can have a realistic chance of winning the Ballon d’Or, PSG must ask themselves this question when considering Neymar’s arrival: does his signing make them a Champions League contender?
An important starting point is their recent history in the competition. PSG have failed to progress beyond the Quarter-Finals since their 2011 Oryx Qatar Sports Investments takeover and, interestingly enough, were stopped dead in their tracks last season by an irresistible second-leg comeback in the Round of 16 from Barcelona, spearheaded by Neymar.
PSG’s inability to threaten the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich at the elite level is not for a lack of ambition; they’ve brought in some of the world’s best players since the takeover, including Thiago Silva, Edinson Cavani, Angel di Maria and, of course, Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
To avoid unnecessary comparisons between Neymar’s potential signing with those listed above, one point can quickly summarise: PSG have brought in star players before – to great success in Ligue 1, winning four consecutive titles – but the Champions League is a whole other calibre of competition.
In fact, if PSG were to be a serious contender for the Champions League, they would not be aiming for one superstar signing. The transfer reeks more of a flex in financial strength of the club’s owners than a signal to threatening the status of top-tier clubs in Europe.
Now, that’s not to suggest that Neymar’s departure isn’t a massive blow to Barcelona. It’s a reminder that even the biggest clubs in Europe can lose their star players during the peak years of their career. But to bring the discussion back to PSG, who have they signed thus far?
PSG have added full-backs Dani Alves (free) from Juventus and Yuri Berchiche (€13 million) from Real Sociedad. Not exactly a huge upgrade on the squad with just over a week until Ligue 1 commences. Perhaps they thought it was time to join in on the action, or fire back at the Catalans for their constant attempts at Italian midfielder Marco Verratti?
Whatever the case, the Brazilian would form an intimidating and exciting front-line alongside Edinson Cavani and Angel di Maria. However, his signing alone cannot be considered a reason for PSG to suddenly emerge as favourites for the Champions League, as they’ve proven in the past with other key acquisitions.