Neymar Jr. and Paris Saint-Germain’s Qatari owners, who denied him the chance to return to Barcelona last summer, are obliged to meet via video call in the coming days to try and agree a wage cut that the president, Nasser Al-Khelaifi, has demanded from the entire squad in public.
The negotiations could bring further conflict between the two parties, who remained linked last year after a summer of tension, anger, a desire to leave and, above all, a lack of dialogue. Qatar Sports Investments (QSI), who run the club from Doha, ensured Neymar would spend at least one more year in Paris.
However, the coronavirus pandemic has changed things. The first victim was Neymar himself. Barça told him to forget pushing through with Article 17 (unilaterally breaking his contract and FIFA setting the fee) due to the uncertainty over how much it would cost them.
It would have been the easiest way to get Neymar out of Paris, but the club estimated the fee would end up being around 180 million euros, more than they want to pay since the Covid-19 outbreak and the financial consequences the virus is having on football clubs.
For that reason, the route back to Camp Nou passes through Barça and PSG negotiating and reaching a deal, with the Catalans keen to include players.
The Barça star most likely to enter in a swap deal is Antoine Griezmann, who first the profile of player PSG are looking for as they look to build a more recognisably French team around Kylian Mbappe.
The decision to end Ligue 1 will affect French clubs’ income. The panorama is catastrophic for PSG, who could still compete in the Champions League if it goes ahead. However, the club have leaked that they will lose around 200 million euros this season and that there must be wage cuts.
It’s significant that they’ve reached the first week of May without an agreement. Things are blocked. The club and the players are a long way from a deal. Even inside the dressing room, there are differing views, with some players closer to the club and others just there for the generosity of the owners’ money.
Now comes the moment to ask Neymar to make “an effort,” the team’s best-paid player, in a hostile negotiating climate. The Brazilian star’s tactic, until now, has to dedicate his heart and soul to football and happenings on the pitch, but he’s maintained his distance from those running the club. One example of that is the fact he has not responded to a contract renewal offered in November.
Neymar, aware he’s in a strong negotiating position, could take advantage of that to force an exit while knowing that player values are dropping in the transfer market — as much as 30 percent.
It’s a new battle that could go on. And Barcelona could be the big winners because now the player and the club are going to sit down and talk without intermediaries.
Last year, Neymar was prepared to reduce his salary to return to Camp Nou. The summer even ended with him prepared to put 20 million euros from his own pocket towards the deal. It was a declaration of intent from the Brazil international, who, eight months later, remains obsessed with wearing Blaugrana again.