When last we updated you on the story of the summer, the great will-they-or-won’t-they of our time, the ever-changing decision by Neymar to either stay at Barcelona or leave for PSG, the rumor that began as an improbability had, almost overnight, appeared to become a near certainty. Since then, things have only gotten more ridiculous.
In the midst of the growing flood of reports that the Neymar-to-PSG deal was some-very-high-percentage done, there was an actual game to be played. Barcelona and Juventus faced off in a friendly in New York on Saturday, during which Neymar scored two great goals, both facilitated by what is at this point his symbiotic understanding with Lionel Messi, the man Neymar was reportedly desperate to get away from so as to officially mount his assault for the title of world’s best player.
Neymar played like a man with something to prove, one exultant in his still-growing abilities, but not like a man trying to make nice with the anxious and increasingly angry Barça fanbase that had been so blindsided by the news that Neymar wanted out. He looked calm and happy, he celebrated his goals with real emotion, but never did Neymar make any gesture—a kiss of the badge, say—that would’ve communicated his intention to stay with Barcelona.
Later though, the breakthrough the Blaugrana faithful had been too beaten down to even hope for appeared to have come: After what Spanish paper Sport reported was an hour-long heart-to-heart session between Neymar, Messi, and Luis Suárez—two of the players Neymar is closest with in the team—his teammates had successfully convinced the Brazilian to stay.
Right on time, as the media began circulating news of this new wrinkle to the story, things almost immediately went the exact opposite direction. Following the friendly, Neymar’s dad/agent met with members of Barça’s board. The meeting did not go well. In fact, it reportedly went so poorly that the brief hope of reconciliation was dashed and Neymar was to be off again. The Brazilian reporter who first broke the story said that Neymar’s lawyers and some higher-ups at PSG were currently in Barcelona hammering out the language of his contract, waiting only for Papa Neymar’s final go-ahead to proceed to the next step and trigger the release clause. From one end of the spectrum to the other for about the fifth time in three days.
Finally, Sunday night, there seemed to at long last be a final resolution. Gerard Piqué—a man who serves as Barça’s world-class center back, their biggest and best fan, and the club’s president-in-waiting—posted this picture of himself and Neymar with the caption “He stays”:
That, most everyone believed, was that. Just like in the Champions League, Barcelona came back from unimaginable odds against their Parisian foes and turned what was set to be a loss of historic proportions into a shocking, enrapturing victory. After the whole squad implored him to stay, and the long talk with his partners on the forward line, and even one report of none other than Cristiano Ronaldo texting Neymar to advise him to snub PSG in favor of a possible move to Manchester United next summer, it was Piqué who came in and sealed the deal once and for all.
Sure, Neymar himself hadn’t said anything definitive on the subject, nor did he even do the bare minimum of “liking” Piqué’s photo, but there’s no way Piqué would’ve done this unless he was sure of an agreement, right? Turns out: nope! Piqué very well might have jumped the gun!
ESPN FC quoted a source close to Neymar as saying the source had “no idea” why Piqué posted that message, implying that Neymar’s final decision had not in fact been made yet. Sport too doused cold water on the idea that Piqué’s tweet meant Neymar would officially stay in Barcelona for the upcoming season. While things seemed to be some degree closer to Barça’s favor than before after this weekend’s talks, the saga is still far from over.
Judging by the way this affair has progressed so far, we expect today to bring at least one report that Neymar is definitely off to PSG, another conflicting one that says he is sure to stay in Barcelona, and another wildcard that we can’t yet predict. This is the at once the best and worst transfer story ever.