After a two-year pursuit, Neymar finally completed his long expected move to Barcelona over the weekend to bring two of the world’s biggest stars together in one front line next season. In a climax that was reminiscent of LeBron James’s “The Decision,” it emerged on Friday night that Neymar’s club Santos had accepted two bids for the 21-year-old forward -- the other widely believed to have been from Real Madrid -- and the player now had his future in his own hands. As media and supporters camped outside Santos’s offices waiting for word of Neymar’s next move, the player announced he was having dinner with his family before revealing his next destination.
Few were surprised, though, when the following day Neymar confirmed that he was Camp-Nou bound to team up with Lionel Messi. Barcelona then confirmed that a five-year deal had been signed for an undisclosed fee, believed to be in the region of €28 million. It has been widely reported, although officially denied, that Barcelona made a €10 million down payment on the transfer as early as 2011. Neymar, who has scored 20 goals in 32 appearances for Brazil, made a tearful farewell to Santos on the opening weekend of the Brazilian championship against Flamengo on Sunday.
“It’s a dream to be able to play for Barca,” Neymar said in a statement on the Barcelona website. “I thank God for making this possible. It’s an honor to be able to play with Messi, Xavi and [Andres] Iniesta.”
Barcelona’s failure in the Champions League this season exposed a need to have a player capable of providing a cutting edge when Messi is either off top form or being crowded out by opponents. It will now be hoped that Neymar’s technique and exciting dribbling skills can provide that. Yet, their struggles also highlighted the club’s failure to sign a top-class central defender last summer.
According to Barcelona-based publication Mundo Deportivo, the man they targeted last summer, Thiago Silva, has been priced out of a move by Paris Saint-Germain. Yet, Tito Vilanova has another Brazilian defender in mind, in Roma’s Marquinhos.
The 19-year-old has just completed his first season in Italy following a move from Corinthians. Again, though, the asking price could be a stumbling block, with Barcelona said only to be prepared to offer €20 million and Roma holding out for €30 million. And the cost is unlikely to be any lower for another reported target Vincent Kompany. The Belgian is one of Manchester City’s key performers and captained the club to their first league title in 44 years in 2012.
With money largely no object to City, there appears little chance of the 27-year-old leaving unless he pushes for a move. And his comments on Twitter this past weekend appear to rule out that possibility. “Speculations and questions about next season… I'm not going anywhere,” he wrote. “I love playing for City and I've still got some unfinished business.”
Given that Victor Valdes has revealed that he will not be extending his Barcelona contract, which expires next year, and is widely expected to be leaving this summer, a new goalkeeper is also on Barcelona’s agenda. A return to Camp Nou for 30-year-old former Barcelona stopper Pepe Reina has been mooted, with Mundo Deportivo believing a deal could be struck for between €10 million and €12 million. A slightly more expensive, bit youthful option is Borussia Monchengladbach’s highly rated Marc-Andre ter Stegen. The 21-year-old has already made his debut for Germany.