Should PSG faithful forgive Neymar?
Background image: Zakary Faibis, CC BY-SA 4.0
The biggest saga of the summer transfer window only fell short of the original transaction's sensationalism when a deal failed to materialise.
Having left Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain in the summer of 2017, Neymar finally returned to his senses. After trodding the Parc des Princes pitch, he discovered the grass was in fact not greener on the other side. He shouldn't have left the home he'd been given in Barcelona and wanted desperately to go back. Unfortunately, even a generational talent can't have everything his way, especially when he burns bridges at both ends while standing in the middle.
Paris Saint-German paid through their nose to secure the Brazilian’s services. When the €222 million deal was announced, fans of both clubs and neutrals alike all checked their calendars to be sure it wasn't April Fools.
What on earth would make a player want to leave a club of which he was a boyhood fan when he's enjoying the best years of his career? A club that will pay him any salary he desires, whose fans adore him, where the trophies don't stop coming and he can count the world's greatest player as his teammate?
Ah, there it is. Lionel Messi was taking too much of the spotlight and Paris is known as the City of Light. If he left, he wouldn't have to wait in the shadows any longer.
After two years in France, however, the light shining on him isn't one in which to bask. It's exposed his weaknesses, excess and immaturity. Each season began brilliantly but injuries kept him from reaching the end in both. Feeling as though fate was trying to tell him he'd made a mistake, he devised a strategy to force his way out. Through a series of episodes, his recalcitrant behaviour would undermine the club and alienate PSG fans. When he doubled down by ridiculing them, the environment would be so toxic that the board would do anything to be rid of him.
It almost worked.
The fans were angry and didn’t want him at their club anymore. The club hierarchy was ready to do business. Barcelona couldn’t believe their luck. Negotiations commenced only to drag on endlessly. Neymar said his goodbyes and couldn’t wait to board the plane for Spain.
But Les Parisiens would not let go of their prized asset easily or cheaply. Barcelona had to pay and the Catalans were reluctant to spend after already splashing €195 million on Antoine Griezmann and Frenkie de Jong. The deal broke down at the 11th hour. Neymar was devastated.
Whether he likes it or not, he must settle down to play for Paris Saint-Germain for the time being. He caused an earthquake. Now he must dig out his career, rebuild, mend relationships with disappointed teammates and placate angry fans, some of whom have become his sworn enemies.
While the last seems the least significant, it's the most injurious. Subject to boos ant taunts from Parc des Princes loyalists, he likened the atmosphere to that of an away game.
While the house is divided, an ill wind blows no one any good.
Booing your own player, a key one at that, doesn't encourage the team to fight through adversity. Thankfully, it didn't affect the 27-year-old in such a negative fashion over the weekend. Instead, he rose to the challenge, bailing the team out by scoring the only goal against Strasbourg to secure three points.
Real Madrid will be in town on Wednesday to begin another Champions League quest. Neymar has committed himself publicly to do everything to help the team succeed albeit without any apologies for past behaviour. If they are to realise their dream of conquering Europe, PSG fans must get past that. They need to make the best of a marriage of convenience. Who knows? Maybe Neymar will come to realise making the same mistake a second time doesn't correct anything.