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Neymar to PSG? Barcelona ace may need to leave to escape Messi shadow

It’s the story that has rocked the transfer window: Neymar has been linked with an incredible move to Paris Saint-Germain.

While Manchester United have been long-term admirers, PSG’s huge €222 million deal is on the cards according to reports in Brazil, as Barcelona face the prospect of an end to their famed “MSN”.

Should Neymar leave La Liga? ESPN FC’s Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona correspondents Jonathan Johnson and Sam Marsden discuss what would be the biggest transfer of all-time.

Why would Neymar leave Barcelona?

Sam Marsden: Talk of Neymar wanting to leave, before the Paris Saint-Germain speculation grew legs, appeared in Diario Sport earlier this week. Albert Masnou wrote that the Brazilian has grown “uncomfortable” at Barca, explaining that he had grown tired of being Lionel Messi’s sideman.

Ignoring the two players’ excellent relationship, it’s just about feasible that someone who wants to be known as the best at what he does would want more limelight. With Messi signing a new deal at Camp Nou and still the club’s No.1, it’s not immediately forthcoming at Barca. Meanwhile, the Catalan club are having to work really hard to keep within their wage limit, so more money would almost definitely be on the table at PSG — which is often a reason to leave.

Jonathan Johnson: PSG can offer him the one thing Barca cannot guarantee: he will be the figurehead of the team.

As long as Lionel Messi is at Camp Nou, which is likely to be at least a few more years after the Argentina international’s recent contract extension, the Brazilian superstar will always be in the shadows and part of the legendary No. 10’s star-studded support cast instead of directly in the limelight.

Would moving to PSG be a sidewards step?

SM: It certainly wouldn’t be a forward one. PSG have taken huge strides forward this decade, but they are still not on the level of Barca, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich. They’ve failed to progress beyond the last eight of the Champions League and were beaten to the French title by Monaco last season. Barca admittedly didn’t have the season they’d hoped for last time out, but they’re still a level above PSG, mentally as much as anything else — as the 6-1 showed.

JJ: Based on the second leg of last season’s Champions League last 16 clash, which saw PSG humiliated 6-1 in Catalonia, there is a substantial argument it would be a sidewards step. However, it is also true that Les Parisiens produced one of the best performances in club history to beat Barca 4-0 in the first leg at Parc des Princes.

Unai Emery’s men badly let themselves down in Europe and Ligue 1 last campaign but that does not make them a poor team or their project an abject failure. For a player like his close friend and serial champion Dani Alves to be lured to PSG over the likes of Manchester City, Parc des Princes might look like the place to be next term.

Is he worth his buyout clause?

SM: Perhaps it would be a stretch to call it a bargain, but it certainly wouldn’t be a bad deal by today’s standards. At €222 million (it goes up to €250m next summer) PSG would get one of, if not the most marketable player on the planet and a forward who has already been on the Ballon d’Or podium once. He’s the player they need to go to the next level and if you look at the whole package, you can see why PSG would be ready to front up the cash.

JJ: No player is worth €222m, not even Messi.

Such a fee would be a massive outlay for any club — even the likes of the mega rich French giants — but signing a global icon like Neymar would immediately start to pay dividends for PSG off the pitch. It would put the club back firmly on the football world map.

Whose front line would be better: PSG with Neymar, or Barca with a Neymar replacement alongside Messi and Suarez?

SM: Replacing Neymar would be difficult — impossible? — for Barca. Once he’s gone and they go after players — Borussia Dortmund’s Ousmane Dembele, for example — clubs are going to demand crazy money. As Tottenham showed in the immediate post-Gareth Bale years, it’s not easy to replace your best players. That said, the Blaugrana would still count on the best player in the world in Messi. He may have turned 30 last month but his form in 2017 suggests no slump is on-setting just yet.

That can’t be said with such certainty about Luis Suarez, but he remains one of the world’s best forwards and still has several years in him at the top level. Barca’s forward line would still be the best, but that could quickly change with Neymar given centre stage in Paris.

JJ: If Edinson Cavani can replicate his prolific form from last season, Angel Di Maria is the same player we saw in the second half of last campaign and Julian Draxler picks up where he left off from his first six months in Paris and Confederations Cup campaign this summer, PSG’s attack will be lethal with Neymar as well.

Messi will always be phenomenal, while Suarez is also extremely talented but there are few — if any — players of the same calibre as Neymar that Barca could replace the Brazilian with if he leaves Camp Nou.

A Neymar, Cavani and Di Maria front three in Paris has mouth-watering and devastating potential, while Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez could also be added to that equation if the prospect of those three South American was not already mind-blowing.

Barca, on the other hand, might be better served with a player less flashy than the Brazilian but more willing to sacrifice himself for Messi’s greatness.

Which club is better for him to realise his Ballon d’Or ambition?

SM: There are strong arguments for both, but the stronger one lies in Paris right now. If he could propel PSG to the next level, say winning the Champions League, he would be the clear favourite to win the Ballon d’Or. That’s easier said than done, mind. Success at Barca remains more likely but it would be met with campaigns for Messi to be crowned football’s best for the sixth time.

JJ: PSG. As long as Neymar stays with Barcelona, Messi will be the big star and the Brazil gem will be perhaps the most prominent supporting actor — second only to one player but still not top dog.

If Neymar wants to break up the recent Messi-Cristiano Ronaldo Ballon d’Or monopoly, he must join a club that will make him the undisputed star.

How will this play out?

SM: Barca vice president Jordi Mestre and sporting director Robert Fernandez have both said publicly this week that Neymar will not leave. Privately they undoubtedly think the same, although their stance may not be as strong. However, they can’t be seen to be the board who sell Neymar — who, at 25, is five years behind Messi and Suarez — so PSG would almost definitely have to pay the release clause. That way, Barca can say there was little they could do and pin it on the player. That would leave the ball in Neymar’s court.

But this is not a new scenario. Neymar has been linked with infinite moves away from Catalonia and it remains than likely that he will still be a Barca player on Sep. 1.

JJ: Success is far from certain, but PSG will throw everything at Neymar this summer and this is their best chance yet of getting their man.

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