When Good Moves Go Bad: Neymar, Barcelona And PSG, And Other Players Who Have Regretted Their High-Profile Transfers
The latest gameweek Ligue 1 finished with incumbent champions Paris Saint-Germain playing out a 2-2 draw at the Parc des Princes to mid-table Strasbourg on Sunday evening.
Les Parisiens missed the opportunity to clinch their sixth title in seven seasons this week, and now have to wait temporarily to equal Monaco and Nantes for third-most titles won in the professional era of the competition. PSG would have beaten their clincher last year by almost a whole week with victory in the capital.
Manager Thomas Tuchel fielded a depleted side against Strasbourg, with Kylian Mbappé starting off from the bench and fellow panjandra Angel di Maria, Edinson Cavani, and Neymar missing out altogether - a combined total of €529million worth of players.
The latter is still yet to recover from injury that has seen the 27-year-old watch on from the sidelines since the end of January, as his side have marauded once again throughout the top tier, coupled with a previously aggravating abductor problem has seen the Brazilian make just 13 league appearances this season.
Since becoming the world’s most expensive footballer in summer 2017, Neymar has made just over 50 appearances in all competitions for PSG, with rumours persisting of an imminent transfer away from the French capital after just two years,
A former teammate has now become the latest name to insinuate that the forward may be showing signs of remorse after switching Spain and Liga for France and Ligue 1.
Adriano, a Barcelona player for six years who stood alongside his compatriot Neymar as one of the Blaugrana between 2013 and 2016 told Spanish radio sports show, El Larguero;
“I spoke with Neymar three weeks ago. Everyone who has played for Barcelona and left has regretted it and I think, for him, even more so than most. [Neymar] is young and I think he has chosen what he thought was best for him. I saw him for many years at Barça, it was a shame that he went to PSG, but I have always wished him the best in his career and his family.”
Though the extent of truth in Adriano’s comments is debatable, or a least remains to be seen as the football calendar approaches the next transfer window, Neymar wouldn’t be the first player to have eventually shown remorse at their own high-profile move.
The swap deal involving Zlatan Ibrahimović was one of three to light up the European market in the summer of 2009, with Inter Milan allowing their Swedish striker to leave San Siro in exchange for Samuel Eto’o and €46million from Barcelona.
A move that became regrettable less due to the club and the league - who’s bigger than Barca? - and more the striking contrast in personality between Ibrahimovic and Blaugrana manager Pep Guardiola, something that Zlatan has been more than outspoken about in the time since.
Spanish coach Guardiola was coming off the back of the continental treble of La Liga, Copa del Rey, and the Champions League in his inaugural season at the helm before sanctioning the move for the forward.
The relationship certainly seemed to start off swimmingly, Ibrahimovic scoring in each of his first five league games, and being involved in 20 goals before Christmas.
A system change later to apparently pacify Lionel Messi and the ire started to rise, reaching its crescendo in emphatic fashion, Zlatan subsequently explained;
"Guardiola was staring at me and I lost it. I thought, 'there is my enemy, scratching his bald head!' I yelled: 'You haven't got any b***s!' and worse than that I added: 'You can go to hell!' I completely lost it, and you might have expected Guardiola to say a few words in response, but he's a spineless coward." (The Telegraph)
After just one season, Zlatan was gone, out of Camp Nou and straight back to Italy. To add salt to the wound, his old club Internazionale under Jose Mourinho would make Italian football history by wrapping up the continental treble that same season, the first - and so far only - time any side has managed the feat in the history of the country,
Zlatan describes his torrid time at Barcelona; Guardiola had bought a Ferrari but had driven it like a Fiat.
Dietmar Hammann, on the other hand, was swift to correct his own mistake. The former Germany international and Champions League winner with Liverpool lasted just a single day at Bolton Wanderers in 2006.
In a saga that still baffles and delights in equal measure, the midfielder was due to swap Merseyside for the Reebok on a free transfer, when he was a month away from turning 33-years-old, when both teams competed in the Premier League.
Instead, he reneged on his pre-contract agreement - "I had agreed to join Bolton, but I quickly realised that going to them would not be the right move for me" (BBC) - and Wanderers received £400,000 for a player who had been on their books for less than 24 hours.