Let me apologize in advance if this doesn’t come out coherently and it sounds like I’m rambling. I’ve been thinking about this Neymar to Barcelona deal that’s been reported all morning and for the life of me, I just don’t get how it makes sense for either side. I have so many thoughts on it and I just need to get them out so here we go.
For context, here’s the potential deal.
This is funny because two years ago Barcelona sold Neymar for a whopping €220 million, which only went on to substantially inflate the market and ruin it for everyone else. They then used that money to mildly overpay for Ousmane Dembele and then wildly overpay for Coutinho.
Barcelona have now deemed Dembele a flop, even though he was only 20, and not a finished product, when they bought him. They usually look more dangerous when he’s on the field, which is important because in the latter end of the season Barcelona looked like anything but the dangerous team they used to be.
Coutinho is a player that never should have been bought. There was a lot of behind the scenes action that came into play for that deal (most likely shady agents that seem to be behind every big time Brazilian transfer deal – more on that soon!). Eventually Coutinho got wind of Barcelona’s interest and that immediately caused him to decide to quit Liverpool.
Now, there are grumblings out there that that Barcelona’s interest was never rock solid. The backroom staff at the Nou Camp was never in agreement about this. But eventually it started gaining momentum and the pressure for Barcelona to do something started to mount. Liverpool knew Barcelona were sitting on this heap of Neymar money and held out to get a massive payout. It worked.
Barcelona saw Coutinho as a replacement for Andres Iniesta, which is not a good assessment. They both dribble a lot but where Iniesta was a passer, Coutinho is a shooter. He shoots a ton, and his shot selection isn’t that great.
That’s not a recipe for success for a team that’s designed to get the ball to Leo Messi, who also likes to dribble and shoot a lot.
Then there’s Neymar.
Two years ago Neymar left Barcelona. The widely reported reason was because he didn’t like playing in Messi’s shadow. Neymar wanted to win the Ballon d’Or and that would never happen if he was in the same team as Messi.
That probably hasn’t changed, which means coming back to Barcelona means going back to playing second fiddle (you could argue he was already playing second fiddle at PSG to Kylian Mbappe).
The obvious counter point here is that both Messi and Luis Suarez are getting older (they’re 32 and 33 respectively) and this could soon be Neymar’s team but that doesn’t quite hold up.
Last year Messi and Suarez combined for 76 goals in all competitions, the same amount they combined for the year before (and just a modest drop-off from the 91 they combined for the last time Neymar was around).
Not only are they not exactly slowing down, but it’s also entirely possible that Messi isn’t going to age like regular players do. Plus Neymar have known that these guys were going to be old soon when he left two years ago?
(As I mentioned before, when Neymar signed with Barcelona there was a lot of (now outlawed by FIFA) third party ownership going on with. Many different people owned parts of Neymar’s transfer rights and stood to make a lot of money when he got a big money transfer. That could have easily been the driving force behind forcing a move to €220m move, and the ‘wanting away from Messi’ reason could have all been bullshit.)
Not only are those two still there, but Barcelona just signed Antoine Griezmann, another player who plays a relatively similar game to Neymar (and Coutinho).
None of these guys are your typical number 9 like Suarez is. That’s not to say you need a typical number nine these days. You certainly don’t. But all three of these guys like to have the space of a false 9/number 10. How would that work?
As I mentioned before, scoring goals wasn’t Barcelona’s problem last year. The rest of the team was. Against both Manchester United and Liverpool in the Champions League Barcelona were a shell of themselves. They played a mostly 4-4-2 and looked a lot like West Brom. It seemed that their tactics were to sit back and defend well and wait for Messi to do some magical things. United weren’t good enough to punish them for that, Liverpool were.
Soccer is a game of links. You’re only as strong as your weakest ones. The un-doing of Real Madrid’s “Galacticos” policy was always that while they had so much fire power up front, they were often lacking in the midfield and defense. It was only when Zidane addressed these issues as manager did they start owning Europe. Barcelona are now building a similarly unbalanced squad.
For PSG it comes down to how do you want to handle Neymar. If he doesn’t want to be there do you want him off the team no matter what, or do you hold on to an unhappy player until you get full value for him.
PSG already have a number of wide players, but adding Dembele would not be a bad idea. As much as Barcelona consider him a flop, the kid is still pretty damn good.
At 22 years old, Dembele is still getting better. Re-uniting him with his former Borussia Dortmund manager Tomas Tuchel whom he thrived with is certainly not a bad idea.
But Coutinho is a different story. He’s 27 years old. At this point he is what he is.
Coutinho coming off a 5 goal 2 assist La Liga campaign. In a year and a half he has just 18 goals and 8 assists. Not getting assists when you’re an attacking player playing with Messi is a bit of a red flag, especially when your trying to build a team around Mbappe.
Think about if from another perspective. PSG don’t need either of these guys to win Ligue 1. They’re trying to win the Champions League. Barcelona is a direct competitor for that.
Dembele would make PSG better but would Coutinho? That’s unclear. What we do know is that Coutinho isn’t making Barcelona better and he’s a financial problem for them. Why would you want to help out your rivals by taking a problem off of their hands – especially if it doesn’t make you any better?
If I were PSG I’d start the conversation at €110m plus Dembele. I’d want no part of Coutinho. If Barcelona insist he comes along, then they’d have to pay even more. Barcelona probably can’t afford that so it really comes down to will Neymar perform for PSG even if he’s forced to stay for another year?
If the current offer goes through my head will explode. Dembele, (Barcelona’s problem) Coutinho, and only €40 million?? It doesn’t make either team better! It doesn’t make any sense!