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The Story of Neymar’s Short-Lived Barcelona Career

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On May 24th,  2013, FC Barcelona announced that they had finally completed the signing of Brazilian winger Neymar Jr from Santos for an undisclosed fee. It was a dagger through the heart for most of Europe’s big clubs who had all been chasing the winger's signature.

At the start, it had the potential to blossom into a lucrative partnership for all parties, as Neymar had a huge following in Brazil and his social appeal and footballing skills were set to elevate the union between him and Barcelona to unprecedented heights.

History was on his side as well, as Camp Nou has a long history of Brazilians showcasing their talent week in, week out. Ronaldo Delima, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho, Dani Alves, Juliano Belletti, and many others have come and gone, leaving their footprints firmly on the turf at Camp Nou. The general perception was that Neymar was to be no different.

Fast forward four years and the samba star is nowhere to be seen. His Barcelona career was tailing off and eventually coming to a bewildering exit. Things started out smoothly though. His first season in the Barca stripes saw him seamlessly adapt to life alongside star names like Fabregas, Iniesta, and Messi.

First Barcelona Season

His first goal for the Catalans came against rivals Atletico Madrid, a goal that sealed the Super Cup victory for Barca, thus becoming the first of seven trophies the Brazilian would lift as a Barcelona player.

He would give two outstanding performances in both El Clasicos that season, finishing the year in double figures for both goals and assists. It wasn’t the perfect season – as highlighted by their exit at the hands of Simeone’s Atletico in the quarter-final stage - but it was a start and a very good one.

Second Season

Then came the second year and a burst of goals, skills, trophies, and more goals. Barca had signed Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez and Sevilla playmaker Ivan Rakitić. With Messi, Neymar, and Iniesta already in the squad, betting sites all had Barcelona nailed on to win all the major trophies. And they were right.

Neymar would go on to be the chief creator of the MSN trio of him, Messi, and Suarez. The trio would go on to rack 122 goals between them, with Neymar scoring a career-high 39 goals on his way to a treble-winning season.

They would beat both Madrid clubs on the way to the La Liga title, win the Spanish Cup, and Champions League final against Juventus, with Neymar scoring crucial goals in both cup finals.

His final two seasons at Camp Nou would not reach the lofty heights of his sophomore year, and with an ever growing need for more recognition, things slowly started to go wrong.

The Fallout

He came in third for the Ballon d’Or and maybe being there when Messi lifted the trophy sparked a thought in his mind that would manifest two years later. His third season saw another domestic double for him and Barca, with MSN racking up 131 goals between them.

Then came his final season in a Barcelona shirt. It began with business as usual, with Neymar putting in vital performances all season long, but it wasn’t to be his or Barca's year.

The highlight of his season was outstanding performance against Paris Saint-Germain to help drag Barcelona from the brink of elimination. Despite scoring two goals and laying on another two, Messi received all the plaudits for Barca's victory, and this was perhaps the final straw.

Real Madrid would go on to win both the Champions League and La Liga, and with Luis Enrique departing as Barca manager, perhaps it was the best time to pursue his dream elsewhere. A comically drawn-out transfer saga followed, and there were fights between Neymar and his teammates in training.

Transfer to PSG

On August 3rd, 2018, Barca and PSG both announced the deal, with Barca fans left with a sore taste in their mouth, branding him ‘Judas’ and ‘cash cow.'

Whatever Neymar's motives were for leaving Barcelona, a club which had offered him so much, it’s certain that he will not be fondly remembered at the Camp Nou, at least not like Ronaldinho or Rivaldo were.

While the aforementioned are considered legends, Neymar would only be remembered for his contributions to their treble-winning season and little else. It was a puzzling scenario for a player with such a distinguished career, still yet to hit its peak. Although his marriage to Barca seemed like the perfect union, it just wasn’t to be, and a divorce was best for all parties.


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