After months of speculation about being involved in a transfer, the highly anticipated return of Neymar to his former club Futbol Club Barcelona officially stalled Sept. 1. Despite making his intentions to leave his club clear to the world, the world’s most expensive player will remain at Paris Saint-Germain — the club that purchased him from FC Barcelona for 222 million euros in 2017 —– until at least January, when the international transfer window reopens. As good as Neymar has been on the field in his greatest moments, his overvaluation has stuck him on PSG for the foreseeable future, a team for which he has no intention of playing long into the future.
Barcelona and PSG seem to have not been able to agree on the current value of the 27-year-old Brazilian star. While rumors circled a possible deal valuing Neymar at 200 million euros, along with three Barcelona players, no proposals seemingly satisfied the PSG front office.
As even the most casual soccer fan knows, the sphere of individual accolades has been dominated by Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo for over a decade. Since debuting in Europe in 2013, however, Neymar has been the heir apparent to this duopoly.
Even as Messi and Ronaldo continue excelling deep in their 30s, Neymar is widely viewed as the third best soccer player in the world. He has proven himself to be a generational talent with a stunning highlight reel of skill moves and free kicks. He has amassed an enormous and international fan base with 125 million Instagram followers, more than the likes of even Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber.
Neymar’s skill set has not necessarily translated, however, into being the most valuable team asset. As viewers of the 2018 World Cup will remember, his theatrical diving and unnecessary provocations with defenders showcase his consistent immaturity. His lavish social life has also raised questions about his commitment to the game despite his on-field ability.
Furthermore, his numbers on the field tell a mixed story. In his prime at Barcelona, he played alongside two elite forwards, Messi and Uruguayan striker Luis Suárez. While the trio was dubbed the deadliest front three in Europe, Neymar scored only 59 of their 250 league goals and registered just 30 league assists. While Barcelona captured two Spanish League titles and one Champions League title in Neymar’s four seasons, these results were arguably an underperformance of the team’s potential or expected success over that stretch.
Since arriving in Paris in 2017, he has faced weaker competition in Ligue 1, France’s top division. Neymar notched an impressive 15 goals in 17 league matches last season, but this result paled in comparison to his teammate Kylian Mbappé’s 33 goals in 29 matches. Both of his seasons with PSG were marred by injuries which left him out of key Champions League fixtures, leaving the wealthy club still seeking its first continental trophy.
His spell at PSG has come with its fair share of off-field drama as well, including Neymar missing practice and appearing to punch a spectator in the face after the 2019 Coupe de France final.
Few sports require the level of team chemistry, intelligence and durability that soccer demands. Neymar’s remarkable talent on the ball is undeniable, but his ability to consistently and maturely lead a team remains unproven on the club or international level despite multiple opportunities to do so.
At 27, Neymar is at least halfway through his professional career. Soccer fans rightfully hope that he will realize his full potential at a new club in 2020. Whoever pays his extremely high price tag, however, must know the gamble they are taking.
Dean Hampers is a senior in the college. FREE KICK appears online and in print every other Friday.