All that was needed to ensure Neymar’s return to La Liga was the signature of Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) officials, it seemed, but by yesterday morning, the biggest transfer in world football had not materialised.
After a meeting between the clubs, PSG informed Barcelona that they wanted €143 million (R2.4 billion), Ivan Rakitic and Jean-Clair Todibo on a permanent basis, and Ousmane Dembele on loan in exchange for the Brazilian international.
According to the reputable website transfermarkt.co.uk Rakitic and Todibo’s market value – which is generally lower than the transfer fee – is €48 million. If one adds a loan fee for the €100 million-valued Dembele, the total value of the move would presumably come close to or possibly even be higher than the €222 million PSG paid when Neymar joined the club in the French capital.
However, Barcelona officials decided to turn down the offer and indicated that they might give PSG a counter offer before the deadline ends throughout Europe tomorrow. Not surprisingly, Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde seems to be irritated by the on-off transfer.
“I am very much looking forward to the end of the transfer window; to be able to rest and for all of us to know how this ends, because it is dragging on. On the subject of Neymar, I have nothing to say. He is a player who is at another team. We respect our rivals and we will see what occurs. When it ends, it will finally be over.”
However, he added that, that, on a scale of one to 10, his fatigue with the constant talk about the Brazilian superstar was at “nine and a half, more or less”.
As happens so often in world football, a Neymar transfer would have a domino effect as PSG remain interested in making a late bid for Tottenham Hotspur’s Christian Eriksen, as well as Juventus star Paulo Dybala and Inter Milan forward Mauro Icardi. These transfers would only take place, though, if Neymar is sold.
The Neymar deal is not the only big-money transfer that ran into problems.
Chris Smalling has joined Inter Milan on loan. Picture: Supplied/ Pa images
The player Neymar replaced as the most expensive footballer in the world, Paul Pogba, is keen to leave Manchester United. He was linked with a move to Real Madrid, which left Real coach Zinedine Zidane furious when it did not materialise.
Instead, Real are said to have bought Bruno Fernandes from Fiorentina, although the deal has not yet been officially announced by the Spanish club.
There are, of course, also a fair amount of big transfers that have gone through, with Barcelona’s Philippe Coutinho going on loan to Bayern Munich, where he could link up with former Liverpool team-mate Emre Can as the German champions were still considering making a last-minute deal for the now Juventus player.
Alexis Sánchez, meanwhile, has put an end to his disappointing spell at Manchester United, having joined Inter Milan on loan, while defender Chris Smalling also left the Reds on a loan deal, joining AS Roma.
United coach Ole Gunnar Solskjær explained that they had had six centre backs, which had allowed Smalling to leave the club.
“This is just something that popped up towards the end of the European transfer window in the last couple of days. Chris fancied the chance to go over there; it’s a new experience, a new adventure.
“He’ll come back better for it because it’s a big club and it’s a good league. There aren’t too many English players who have been playing in Italy, so I think he’ll enjoy it.”
PSG and Real Madrid were involved in a complicated goalkeeper transfer, with Keylor Navas leaving the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu to join the French champions, and Alphonse Areola going in the other direction.
PSG wanted to sign Gianluigi Donnarumma from AC Milan, but could not reach an agreement and thus turned to Navas. However, Real were only willing to let him go if they received an understudy for Thibaut Courtois.
They seemed to have found him in the former PSG number one, who was dropped for his club’s Ligue 1 match against Metz on Friday.
With the transfer windows closing at various times tomorrow throughout Europe (with the Premier League one already closed), it seems likely that some last-minute deals will still go through. Even Neymar, who was not in the squad for Friday’s game, could well be turning his back on PSG by then.