The storm is over and Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior is gone. Ouch! To explain (or apologize for) his move, he posted a from-the-heart chat with fans on social media, from the familiarity of his own room, explaining that an athlete (ME) needs challenges. Well, sure. We get that, don’t we? Opportunity knocks, you answer – right? But, do we believe him?
Maybe we want to believe him because the alternative makes him out to be too calculating, too business-like. But right under the surface of those who wish him well (the ones with the hand-clapping, happy face emojis) are those who use terms like #traitor, “you did it for the money” and “cabrón”. Are these the views of a dispirited and let down minority, or are they vocalizing what some of us have wondered but are too respectful to say? Did he do it, after all, for the money? And is that a good enough reason to break up a winning lineup? Do we expect (or at least hope) that our home team will be, well, loyal—that they would resist the temptation of mere riches?
Neymar, 25-years old and in prime form, probably expects to go from strength to strength. And though the future winds along too many curves to map it out, he may do just that. To PSG, he has taken his dynamism, his pluck, his gift; yet, he may have left behind the very dynamic that propelled him forward, that catapulted him, if you will, to center stage. Not to suggest that Messi and Suarez aren’t giants in their own right, but if Messi is King, then was Neymar Jr. the queen piece on the chessboard? The one that can actually move faster, longer and more aggressively than any other piece?
Behind closed doors and tight lips, Futbol Club Barcelona, like all major soccer clubs, wheel and deal for players with multi-millions of dollars. Like good chess players, Barca moved to protect their interest and threw bishops and knights around Neymar Jr. in the form of a super-expensive release clause. But there’s always that unexpected move by the other side that topples your strategy, and when PSG laid the whole sum on the table, Barcelona’s hopes for 2018 were deflated. Ultimately, though, it was Neymar that agreed to the move, leaving Barca to scramble for a replacement and probably just finding out there isn’t one. And that’s what gets under the skin of every red-blooded Barcelona fan.
What about the ‘power of place’? What about being part of a lineup that was so intimidating that opponents dreaded their arrival on the pitch? Neymar’s move ended the era of the MSN trident, which was as synchronized as a Swiss watch and as potent as a Mercedes-Benz turbocharged motor. And for what did he do this? For challenges? For money? No wonder fans are gutted.
As Messi and Suarez regroup, and fans strain their eyes for a replacement, Barcelona withdraws to calculate their next move. It is possible to lose your queen and still win the game, but you need nerves of steel and a cool head. Over in France, Neymar Jr. is being introduced to those new challenges that he said he wanted. Will he become the proverbial big fish in the little pond? Will he find another powerhouse of talent to mesh with, or will he find that Barcelona was a once-in-a-lifetime position? When the dust settles, whether he made the right decision or not will become more apparent. We hope so, for his sake, but there’s an awful lot of things that money can’t buy.