He’s not a son, but he’s bordering on prodigal. Neymar has spent two years in Paris since his departure from Barcelona, and they haven’t been fruitful in any sense. He has suffered three significant injuries during that time. He missed the latter stages of the Champions League in both those seasons as Paris Saint-Germain went out in the round of 16. Now he is set to miss Copa America due to an ankle injury. A return to Spain could be a warm change of scenery for him. But would Barcelona take him back?
In all honesty, Barcelona have coped without Neymar quite well. They have won two consecutive league titles at a canter. Ernesto Valverde has done well with a pragmatic approach. But that approach was found wanting in the Champions League as Barcelona capitulated twice in the competition. The Catalans need another forward to assist Lionel Messi. Neither one of Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele have been up to the task.
Antoine Griezmann is a player who is rumored to be close to a move. He is set to leave Atletico Madrid this summer. Griezmann is a world-class player in his own right, but Neymar is on another level. The Brazilian performs everything on an elite level on the final third. He has had issues off the pitch, but when healthy, few can stop him on the turf. However, those issues off the pitch could be the obstacle for Barcelona.
It’s safe to say that Neymar will come with a lot of baggage. He has received widespread criticism for his theatrics on the pitch. Neymar’s injury record is not significant, as well. If one is spending a considerable sum on a player, being fit and ready for selection is the least which is expected. Aside from injuries, he has other issues as well. Recently a French model made rape accusations against him. That situation is yet to be sorted conclusively.
Aside from the issues, the drama and pressure surrounding the move would be immense. The expectations would be sky-high upon the reunion of Messi, Neymar, and Luis Suarez. Falling short of those high expectations will be a likely possibility. Also, Valverde would need to give more freedom to his attacking players, something which he has hesitated to do.
That being said, Neymar will improve this Barcelona team. There’s no way around it. He will lessen the burden on Messi’s shoulders to a great extent. With the way Coutinho and Dembele played last season, Neymar will be a huge upgrade. He will be hungry to prove himself again, and Barcelona could be the perfect place for that.
When Neymar left Barcelona in 2017, it changed the trajectories of both the parties. In hindsight, both of them will be regretting the divorce to some extent. Barcelona have the chance to amend that by bringing him back this summer. It will prompt incredible drama and pressure, but Neymar and Barcelona can overcome that to justify the return of the prodigal ‘son.’