Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior completed his signing for Barça today and was then presented before a record-breaking 56,500 fans at Camp Nou. The Brazilian star has signed for five years and he will have a release clause in his contract set at €190 million. Barça have confirmed that the transfer fee was a whopping €57 million, making Neymar our second most expensive transfer after Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
While I have no doubt that Neymar is a talented, even a special player, there are plenty of things about this transfer which worry me. Last summer I accepted that the club didn’t have the money to spend €40 million on the likes of Thiago Silva or Javi Martinez. Jordi Alba was bought as a left back and I think it’s fair to say we got a good deal for €14 million though by playing two attacking full backs we have definitely suffered defensively. Then we bought Alex Song for €16 million as a back up to Sergio Busquets and as a replacement centre back. Here we only seem to have got half the deal as Song’s positional awareness was exposed when played at the back.
This summer the need for a strong central defender is even more obvious. Rosell let it be known that we have a budget of €50 million to spend plus whatever can be made from selling players. We have now spent that budget on Neymar leaving us with a diffult job to raise money from sales. As things stand we may get €10-12 million from the sale of David Villa but besides that, if we are going to sell Valdés or Thiago for example – and there is nothing very clear about the club’s plans here – we are going to have to find replacements.
There seems to be a lack of direction in the planning of the squad and it was worrying to hear Tito Vilanova say this week that ‘they give me a squad and I train it’. Who is making the decisions now? Unfortunately, it seems in this case it is the board and not Vilanova and Zubizarreta. If Barça are to return to the heights of recent seasons then we need to stick to the basics of a fast possession game combined with high-energy pressing. The signing of Neymar does not seem to fit into any overall plan, unless we are talking about a marketing plan to make money from image rights.
Neymar has been compared to Barça’s Brazilians of the last 20 years, Romario, Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho but he will have a hard time following these exceptional players. They had all cut their teeth with European teams before moving to Camp Nou and there seems to be a legitimate doubt about how Neymar will adapt to playing in Europe where he will find less time and space to show off his skills.
The other big doubt is related to Neymar’s position. Ideally he seems suited to a false nine role where he can drop deep and begin attacks. However, considering we already have the best player in history for this position, unless we see a whole new formation to replace the 4-3-3, Neymar will almost certainly be asked to play on one of the wings. This will leave Pedro, Alexis and Tello to fight for one spot with little chance for Gerard Deulofeu to make the leap to the first team.
All in all it seems a very bad move to be taking and one that the success of Rosell’s presidence will be judged on. I hope Neymar proves me totally wrong but I can’t help feeling that this could mark the beginning of a decline in our great club’s fortunes.