As the transfer season heats up, a cascade of rumors continues to swirl regarding some of the best soccer players in the world, as is usual for this part of the year. Today, it’s Barcelona’s Neymar that gets his turn in the spotlight: Sport is reporting that the 25-year-old forward is beginning to feel “uncomfortable” about remaining with the Catalan giants, where he supposedly feels like he is in the shadow of Lionel Messi’s prime.
Since arriving at the Camp Nou in 2013, Neymar has enjoyed a great deal of collective success, including two La Liga titles, a UEFA Champions League title, a FIFA Club World Cup, three Copa del Rey wins, and a Spanish Super Cup. He even became part of a treble-winning side in 2015, when Barcelona became the first club ever to achieve a second European triple. The only thing Neymar has yet to enjoy? Hoisting the the Ballon d’Or trophy, the consensus recognition as the best player in the world. That’s why Neymar has been rumored to be unhappy about being second-best to Messi since…well, since before even joining Barcelona from Brazil.
With growing interest surrounding Neymar–widely considered the best player not named Messi or Ronaldo–could this be his time to make a move? Back in October, the Brazilian signed an extension with Barca that would keep him in the blaugrana through 2021, with a massive release clause of $229 million this summer; over the next two years, that number will rise as high as $287 million. Any deal that sees Neymar leave Barca would also, in all likelihood, make him both the most expensive and the highest-paid player in history.
It’s that last bit that probably holds the key to decoding these rumors; given that Messi just signed a new deal that skyrocketed his salary to upwards of $30 million a year, it’s not shocking that Neymar would want to negotiate new terms as well. Sure, personal glory might be more important to the Brazilian than that of the team, but in this era of leaked rumors and anonymous sources, the soccer media willingly plays along with agent strategies that attempt to get their clients more money.
After all, everyone wins: the player gets a bigger salary and commitment from their club, the agent gets a bigger cut, and the news outlets get clicks. Whether or not Neymar wants to strike out on his own and go for the Ballon d’Or is probably irrelevant; Barcelona holds his rights for the next 5 seasons, and there are few clubs that could give the forward a better–or even equivalent–situation.
So, if in a few weeks, headlines like “Barcelona and Neymar closer to new contract” pop up, you’ll know that the seeds where planted in this current report. And if Neymar does leave? It’ll buck the trend of superstars publicly agitating for more money; after all, Ronaldo was reported to be 100% out at Real Madrid just earlier this summer, and he’s nowhere near leaving just a month later.