We are in uncharted territory here, folks. Last season, Paul Pogba rejoined his former club Man U for a world record €100m and was immediately criticized whenever his team failed to perform. Dubbed a flop, especially by opposition supporters, Pogba struggled to show why he was so highly coveted by Jose Mourinho. Critically, though, Pogba played an important role in United winning the Europa League, which, despite their poor form in the Premier League, helped United get back into the Champions League.
Now, PSG come along and, through some financial chicanery which will take years to decide whether it was legal or not, have given Neymar €222m to buy out his contract from Barcelona. The fee is more than double what United paid for Pogba and the level of scrutiny for PP was off the charts last season. So, what does Neymar have to do to justify his transfer fee?
Well, PSG are easily favorites to win Ligue Un so that’s a given. Neymar is also quite a wonderful footballer to watch, so dribbles and goals and beautiful assists are sure to follow him to PSG as well. Fans will expect him to be nothing less than the most beautiful footballer they have seen and I don’t think he’ll disappoint – his ability to make those amazing runs, leaving four or five defenders in his wake will be highlighted by the level of competition in Ligue Un.
He will be good. He will probably even be great. So what more does he have to do? Fair or not, the only way for Neymar to be deemed a success is to win the Champions League for PSG and probably even the Balon d’Or.
PSG had a great run in the Champions League last season but fell short after taking a 4-0 lead over Barcelona in the first leg of their tie. In the return leg, which Barcelona won 6-1, Neymar played a prime part, scoring 2 and setting up a third, in what has been dubbed the greatest comeback in football history. But in the next round, Barcelona failed to get past Juventus, despite Neymar’s man of the match performance in the return leg.
Neymar put in two incredible performances in those four matches but he was still under the shadow of the world’s greatest ever footballer, Lionel Messi. Now, Neymar will have to do it all again, but this time, he’ll be in PSG colors, and this time there will be no Messi… the world will be expecting him to be the winner.
When you are the most expensive footballer in history. When you double the fee paid for the world’s most expensive player from the year before. The expectation is that you will be the greatest footballer in the world. That means being individually great, and also being so good that you lift your team to victory. And only the top trophies will matter. Anything less and Neymar will be deemed a flop.