Paris Saint-Germain’s grand Neymar experiment is fizzling out

The genesis of Neymar’s world record-shattering 2017 move from FC Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain wasn’t design but opportunity.

The recruitment of the Brazilian superstar forward wasn’t part of some carefully laid plan. PSG didn’t sign the then-25-year-old for a $263 million-ish fee, more than doubling Paul Pogba’s previous world record, after some years-long pursuit the way Barca did. Word reached the moneyed Parisians that he might be available to them, as Neymar had apparently grown tired of living in Lionel Messi’s shadow. So they pounced.

Because PSG figured that having the best player in the world who was available to them could speed up their journey to the club’s ultimate and publicly stated objective: winning the Champions League. The vast Qatari investment in the once-languishing club, which always had the potential to be a juggernaut but had never really come close, wasn’t about dominating France. That was almost a given. And five league titles and nine domestic cups in six years have confirmed as much.

PSG was trying to become a global power.

The club, after all, was a prestige play for the Qatari government. And building a brand that didn’t transcend the fourth- or fifth-best league in the world – after the Premier League, La Liga, the Bundesliga and arguably Serie A – would be a poor return on its outlay. But signing Neymar so perfectly aligned with the club’s larger goals that it couldn’t resist. (It didn’t hurt that the timing allowed Qatar to flex its muscle during the blockade, making for some convenient geopolitical posturing.) Read more

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