Barcelona’s long pursuit of Neymar is set to be frustrated once more as the club adapts to the financial realities of the post-coronavirus world.
The Blaugrana sold the striker to Paris Saint-Germain in 2017 for a world-record transfer fee, but he has subsequently been linked on multiple occasions to a return to Camp Nou.
A transfer is yet to materialise, however, and a move this summer is an unlikely prospect given the economic strife caused by the pandemic worldwide.
Barca’s budget as presented at the start of the 2019-20 season totalled just over €1 billion (£870m/$1.1bn), a figure that the club recognises will be impossible to reach even if football returns in Spain behind closed doors.
Even salary reductions agreed with the entire first team will not be enough to compensate for the revenues lost over the past two months, and the board is now working on cutting wages on a long-term basis in order to balance the books in time for next season, working on a projected 25 per cent fall in annual income.
The likes of Ivan Rakitic, Arthur and Philippe Coutinho have all been slated for possible departures once the window re-opens, but removing such elevated salaries would not suffice to finance Neymar’s return, even if the Brazilian, in turn, accepts a sizeable wage cut from his current deal at PSG.
Barcelona’s prime objective now is to lighten their salary burden, although their dilemma does not end there.
If revenues drop in line with the Catalans’ expectations, they simply cannot consider record transfer fees as a viable option. Neymar would cost a minimum of €150m (£131m/$162m), matching Coutinho as the most expensive player in club history.
Clearly such a spending spree is unrealistic at this point, and the club accepts that now is not the time to bring Neymar back to Camp Nou.
Neymar joined Barcelona from Santos in the summer of 2013, and spent a total of four seasons in Catalunya before moving to Paris.
In total the Brazilian scored 105 goals in 186 appearances for the club, teaming up with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez to form one of the club’s greatest-ever forward lines.
The MSN delivered consecutive Liga titles in 2014-15 and 2015-16, and also led Luis Enrique’s Barca side to Champions League glory in 2015, the first and only time Neymar has won Europe’s most important club trophy to date.