Neymar’s dramatic exit to PSG in the summer of 2017, facilitated by the Qatari-backed outfit paying his relatively meager release clause of $260mn, changed soccer forever and had a grave impact on FC Barcelona.
Leaving the Catalans with a hole to fill on the left wing, other clubs knew they had money to burn, and took advantage of them by putting expensive price tags on the likes of Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho, who have shown promise yet seem to have spent more time on the operating table than in the first team.
With neither of those players able to live up to the Santos academy product’s standards, Barca brought in Antoine Griezmann in 2019 from Atletico Madrid. And though impressing with his workrate and attitude, the World Cup winner has always been a square peg in a round hole on the front line.
This trio represent almost $520mn in squandered transfer fees alone, and as Barca are in financial dire straits with debts more than double that amount, action must be taken.
Rumored to be part of a swap with Saul Niguez to return to his old club, Griezmann has reportedly been told he must move on to make space on the payroll for Lionel Messi’s renewal, and Phillipe Countinho has received similar news.
For the Brazilian, however, selling him is far less straightforward, as he has still yet to return to the competitive field of play since undergoing surgery on December 30, and was therefore unable to take part in Brazil’s recent run to the Copa America final to put himself in the shop window.
Dembele similarly dropped out of France’s last 16 limp at the Euros prematurely, making the pursuit of a buyer for him a thankless task, so president Joan Laporta wishes him to renew terms beyond contract expiry in 2022 to avoid losing him on a free at the conclusion of the upcoming season.
Then it can be seen if the “mosquito” finally kicks on, or must be offloaded to well and truly erase every remnant of the Neymar legacy, and the ill-advised purchases made by Josep Bartomeu with the money from his sale.