Why would Neymar leave Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain?

TURIN, ITALY - APRIL 11:  Neymar Jr of FC Barcelona (R) and his teammate Lionel Messi show their dejection during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final f

Neymar looks as though he could leave Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain this summer, but why is he going to swap one of the world's most successful clubs for a team that finished second in Ligue 1 last season and has never won the Champions League? We take a look...

Two weeks ago, after months of speculation, Gerard Pique appeared to ease Barcelona fears when he posted a picture next to Neymar with the caption, "He stays".

Se queda.

A post shared by Gerard Piqué (@3gerardpique) on

Was that the final word? Had Pique heard that directly from Neymar? Not quite. He has since backtracked, saying: "It's not official. And it's not for me to say. It's a personal opinion from the conversation I had with him and my intuition." The transfer saga of the summer rumbles on - and Neymar now seems on the brink of a sensational move to PSG.

Role at Barcelona

When you are part of a superstar attacking trio you might expect some sacrifice for the good of the team, but Neymar may feel he is giving up more than his team-mates.

Having hit the 20-goal mark in each of the prior two seasons, he scored just 13 last term. Stationed on the left flank, he was instead tasked with creating chances for Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, who combined to score 66 goals.

LAS PALMAS, SPAIN - MAY 14: Neymar of Barcelona celebrates by pointing to a tattoo on his arm after scoring his third goal and the teams fourth of the game
Image: Neymar managed just 13 goals for Barcelona last season

He was also asked to track back - unlike Messi - taking on what Balague described as a "selfless role for the team". Are these grounds for complaint? Sky Sports Spanish football expert Terry Gibson does not think so.

"I don't think it was a spectacular season for Neymar last year and maybe one of the reasons Barcelona weren't as successful was because Neymar and Suarez both did not score as many goals as the previous season," he said.

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"He can't complain about how he has been treated, where he is playing or his role in the team. For a lot of people playing in that front three is as good as it gets for a young player. He is 25, so he will step out of the shadow of Messi, who is five years older.

Neymar's La Liga stats

2016/17 2015/16 2014/15
Minutes played 2652 3057 2572
Goals 13 24 22
Assists 11 12 7

"Neymar's time will come and I think Barcelona is the best club for him. To take the opportunity to go to PSG, who are not as big historically and don't have the same quality of players, just to be the star man and focus of attention is a strange choice."

Becoming the main man

Although he did not score as many goals last season as in 2015/16, Neymar did step up on several occasions to save Barcelona. That was most famously the case against PSG in the Champions League, when Neymar scored two, won a penalty and picked the pass for Sergi Roberto's remarkable late goal in the 6-1 win.

It was an inspired performance that suggested he could carry a team, even one with Messi in the side. And he was perhaps the only Barca player to emerge with credit from their 3-0 aggregate defeat to Juventus in the semi-final.

Neymar completed 13 dribbles against Juve in the second leg at the Nou Camp - the most in a Champions League game since 2014 - as Messi and Suarez struggled to make an impact in a goalless draw.

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Neymar scored a couple of brilliant goals for Barcelona against Juventus

He also impressed when given a larger role in the absence of Messi. Neymar scored three in three games after the Argentine limped off against Atletico Madrid in late September and hit 10 in nine without Messi the season before.

He starred too against Granada in April, with Messi absent through suspension, netting his 100th Barcelona goal.

That same month Balague said: "Neymar accepts, for now at least, that Messi is still the main man". Perhaps that is no longer the case.

A Sky source reports he has become frustrated at "playing second fiddle" to Messi, telling Sky Sports News: "At the age of 25, he thinks it is his time to win the Ballon d'Or."

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Football lawyer Daniel Geey discusses how Neymar's move would work financially

But Messi's place atop the Barcelona hierarchy looks secure, especially after agreeing a new four-year extension this summer.

If Neymar wants to lead a team and win a Ballon d'Or - like Messi at Barca or Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid - he is unlikely to get the chance at the Nou Camp in the immediate future.

But will his chances improve if he joins PSG? "As long as Messi is still playing and Ronaldo is still knocking in the goals, how will he win it?" asks Gibson.

"PSG would have to win the Champions League and he would have to be the main player, and I would still put PSG quite a way down the list to win the Champions League even with Neymar."

But South American Football expert Tim Vickery says Neymar's potential move "makes logical sense" if the Brazilian dreams of winning football's biggest individual prize.

"Neymar's career has always been step-by-step-by-step towards an objective," Vickery told Sky Sports News.

"As well as winning the Champions League - which he has done - he wants the World Cup - which he has not yet done - and the FIFA World Player of the Year award. That plays really big in Brazil.

"Between 1994 and 2007, five Brazilians won it on eight separate occasions and that sets the bar for the generations that follow. If he doesn't win that award, his career will be seen to some extent as a disappointment.

"He is not going to win it if he's not the best player on his own team. The idea was always to take things slowly, go to Barcelona in Messi's shadow, a lovely place to be for a while but not a great place to be forever.

"But Messi has just signed a new contract, hence the arrival of this story. It makes logical sense to go from Barcelona to PSG, you can see why his entourage would be thinking that way."

Riches on offer

There are also financial considerations. Neymar signed a new Barca contract last summer but PSG would significantly improve those terms.

L'Equipe most recently claimed he will sign a six-year deal worth £500,000-a-week in Paris, which would represent a large pay rise.

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The prestige of the league, his commitment to Barca and the chance for trophies are all valid factors to consider but cold, hard cash is difficult to ignore.

Gibson says: "I know people are saying he wants to step out of the shadow of Messi and be the main man somewhere, but I can only think it's about the money. He could have killed off this speculation a long time ago and now it appears he is waiting to see if PSG can keep within the Financial Fair Play rules to pay what he wants and the buyout."

Many of Neymar's close friends also play at the Parc des Princes. Former Barca right-back Dani Alves has recently signed for the club, while Thiago Silva, Marquinhos and Lucas Moura are his Brazil international team-mates.

BARCELONA, SPAIN - APRIL 19:  Neymar of Barcelona is embraced by Dani Alves of Juventus after the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final second leg match betw
Image: Dani Alves is a friend of Neymar's and has joined PSG this summer

On a reunion in the French capital, captain Silva said: "I've heard a lot of journalists talking but at the minute there is nothing concrete. But I think it is important for the PSG project. If he comes, it will be good for the group."

Marquinhos added: "If he comes he will be an exceptional player and will help us a lot."

PSG forward Edinson Cavani did his best to remain circumspect when asked but he also said: "We are talking about a great player and I think any player would like to play alongside any great player."

Silva 'liked' a mocked-up picture of Neymar wearing a PSG kit while Lucas Moura replied with a 'thinking' emoji when asked on Twitter if he had any news about Neymar coming to PSG.

There is also the question of Neymar's popularity at the Nou Camp. A recent poll conducted by Sport found 82 per cent of Barca fans would sell Neymar to PSG.

The 'PSG project'

The Parisian giants, humiliated by their capitulation in the Champions League, also surrendered their domestic crown last season, failing to win Ligue 1 for the first time since 2012.

They salvaged the Coupe de France and Coupe de la Ligue but in the words of club president Nasser Al-Khelaifi, it was "a difficult campaign".

Their signings - particularly Hatem Ben Arfa and Jese but also Grzegorz Krychowiak - failed to shine, while they lost their focal point in Zlatan Ibrahimovic. So this summer represents the chance to refresh what Silva refers to as the "PSG project".

He would be a huge loss to Barcelona. I cannot imagine who they would buy to replace him, even with the huge transfer fee
Terry Gibson on Neymar's potential departure

"This club has so much ambition," said Julian Draxler, one of last season's success stories after his big-money arrival from Wolfsburg in January.

"They want to win the Champions League with all their might and they do everything to achieve that: new players, a new training ground.

"The club really wants it. I think you can see from the players we have that we are developing into one of the best clubs in Europe - maybe we already are one of them."

This club has so much ambition. They want to win the Champions League with all their might.
Julian Draxler on PSG

Could Neymar be tempted to join as the poster boy for a new and improved Paris Saint-Germain? They boast a strong spine in Angel Di Maria, Marco Verratti, Cavani and Silva, but the departure of Ibrahimovic a year ago has the club looking for a figurehead.

That may well be the first task for their new sporting director, Antero Henrique. He made his name unearthing gems like Radamel Falcao, James Rodriguez, Hulk and Jackson Martinez while at Porto but his remit will be very different at PSG.

"My ambition is to work every day to create a winning dynamic able to keep PSG at the highest level in the long term," Henrique said when he joined in June.

A deal for Neymar could be a good place to start.

What do you think? Should Neymar stay at Barcelona or join PSG? Have your say in the comments section below or tweet @SkyFootball.

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