Barcelona are set to earn the biggest transfer fee in football history with Neymar’s projected €222 million move to PSG.
Yet, Barca too have had to pay a heavy price, most notably off the field, for their efforts in bringing the Brazilian to Catalonia in the first place in a murky transfer deal from Santos that has overshadowed his achievements as a Barca player.
On the pitch after an inconsistent first season, Neymar formed one of the most fearsome frontlines ever seen with five-time World Player of the Year Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.
Together they won two La Liga titles, a Champions League and three Spanish Cups.
In 186 games, Neymar scored 105 goals including in the 2015 Champions League final and famously twice as Barca beat his new employers 6-1 in March to historically overturn a 4-0 Champions League last 16, first leg deficit.
However, the Barca hierarchy have played with fire since luring Neymar to choose the Blaugrana over rivals Real Madrid four years ago and have ended up getting burned as the player and his father and agent, Neymar Sr, have taken the astronomical offer put forward by PSG’s Qatari owners that even Barca’s riches can’t match.
Former president Sandro Rosell, who is currently in jail on investigation of a separate case for money laundering related to the sale of the Brazilian national football team’s television rights, resigned over the affair in January 2014.
The club eventually settled a case with the Spanish tax authorities over the transfer for €5.5 million last year.
At 25, Neymar was meant to ensure Barca didn’t skip a beat once Messi’s powers begin to wane – a safety net that is now gone.
Moreover, Barca’s record in the transfer market in recent seasons gives fans little confidence their €220 million bounty will be well re-invested, especially with other clubs able to ask for exorbitant fees with less than a month to go before the transfer window closes.
Bartomeu’s task this summer was to close the gap on a Madrid side that have won three Champions Leagues in the past four years.
Instead, Barca have been blown out the water by PSG’s cash and caught cold in their preparation for new coach Ernesto Valverde’s first season in charge.