Welcome to NeyWatch, a series in which we catch up with the daily, often contradictory updates on the hottest story of the summer.
It was all so much more fun in the beginning. The first week or so of the Neymar saga was a blast, back when every sunrise brought fresh “news” that Neymar was maybe/probably/definitely leaving/staying at Barcelona, only for the next day’s news to directly refute the previous day’s reports. In those halcyon days, rising each morning and surfing the French and Spanish and Brazilian papers for questionably sourced reports about which Brazilian compatriots Neymar just had to play with next season, whether it be in Paris or Barcelona, or trying to divine from social media photos and training videos (was Neymar chumming it up with his Barça buddies in Snapchat pics heavily featuring the bunny filter and thus happy and staying? Or was he trying to kick another teammate’s ass and thus frustrated and leaving?) was like waking up to Christmas every day.
Like Christmas itself, those happy times came and went quicker than we would’ve liked. Ironically, it was right around when Gerard Piqué sent his soon-to-be widely ridiculed tweet that seemed to imply Neymar was definitely going to stay that Neymar’s future crystalized—just not in the way Piqué hoped.
Instead of the transfer story ending with Barça pulling Neymar back from the brink through the impassioned pleas of his teammates, Since Piqué’s tweet, everything has tilted the scales in PSG’s favor. Days went by without Neymar backing up Piqué. A little later, reporters claimed the Brazilian had no idea Piqué was going to post that message and that Neymar still hadn’t made up his mind. Even Piqué eventually admitted that his claim was more of a guess than an official statement of Neymar’s intentions, sapping Barça fans of nearly all remaining hope that their unbelievably talented left winger might be sticking around.
From then on out, the French press has practically inundated us with report after report about how PSG were clearly in the lead for Neymar’s services. First it was Neymar agreeing on all the details of a fat new contract with PSG; then it was that Neymar’s people were out checking out homes in Paris; then about the supremely confident PSG leadership scoping out a venue where they could announce Neymar’s deal once it went through. The Spanish media has recently caught up, and now admit that the fight for Neymar is all but over. The cover of today’s edition of the Catalan paper Sport, playing off wording of Piqué’s tweet, says it all: Se va. “He goes.”
The most trusted French reporter on matters like this, Mohamed Bouhafsi, says PSG expect to wrap the deal up within the next 24-48 hours. Paris United, a Twitter account that has been early and correct on the Neymar stuff from the beginning, says the paperwork for the transfer should be filed and completed by tomorrow and Neymar’s presentation as a new PSG player is set for Wednesday. Sport cites a report from Qatar saying that as Neymar makes his way back from his current marketing trip in China (a trip that was not actually canceled, contrary to some earlier reports), he might stop over in Doha for the medical evaluation he’ll need ahead of the transfer. Every last sign points to Neymar’s imminent departure.
It’s still not totally clear how PSG will foot the bill for the transfer itself, but with Neymar’s intentions so clear at this point, the biggest surprise of all would be if Barça and PSG don’t work something out. The most recent news on that particular front is that PSG are offering to pay Barça the full amount of Neymar’s release clause in a transfer fee, while also throwing Ángel Di María into the deal to entice the Catalan club to accept a transfer deal rather than forcing PSG and Neymar to go through the confusing and costly formal release clause-triggering process. Whether Barça accept an agreement of that sort—which isn’t exactly a great deal for them but isn’t terrible, either—or if they insist on forcing PSG to take Neymar the hard way, remains up in the air. What is no longer in doubt, though, is that Neymar will be a PSG player, and almost certainly very soon.