Whilst undoubtedly exciting, the signing of Neymar by Barcelona smacks of everything that is wrong about the club coming to the fore once again. No matter how alluring the raw talent of Neymar may be, any decision made to satisfy the ego and self-serving ends of one man – the president, Sandro Rosell -, rather than the more pressing needs of the football team will be tainted from the start. With the signing of an unproven starlet whose football career often appears to be suffocated by the sheer weight of public attention foisted on him, Rosell has single-handedly overwritten the importance of reinforcing the defence, providing Lionel Messi with a more reliable foil and prioritising the breakthrough of Barca’s much-vaunted La Masia graduates.
Worse, it shows a disrespect and lack of deference for the forces that have made Barcelona such a paragon over the last four years, by pursuing a trophy signing in a headstrong manner that presumably paid no more than lip service to the consideration that this new signing has the ability to unsettle the form and happiness of the most important player of this generation and many others in Lionel Messi. If Neymar struggles to adapt immediately, the circus that follows him may well coalesce into a chorus of disapproval for the way Messi fails to work with the players brought in around him – from Villa, Sanchez and possibly their beloved heir apparent. That would fail to take into account that the right type of player would find the correct mix of tactical awareness and range to flourish alongside Messi, and if Rosell had the team’s best interests at heart, he might have considered that Luis Suarez (now pursued by Madrid) or Eden Hazard would have been the better fit. Regardless, the paramount duty upon every Barcelona manager and president to attend to the needs of Messi – a true genius with whom they are fortunate to share such a special bond – should have been the first consideration in any signing, yet it is more than plausible that Rosell was thinking of his presidency rather than the needs of the club that he is supposed to serve in making his decision.
There are rumours that Pep Guardiola did not approve of the pursuit of Neymar, and it is no coincidence that Barcelona’s greatest period of success coincided with them ceding to the wishes of an astute manager rather than the normal modus operandi of allowing a president with delusions of his own grandeur to ride roughshod over everyone. Other concerns Guardiola had about Neymar have yet to be dispelled; his talent is indisputable but the question of the sufficiency of his strength of will to make the most of his gifts – raised by his reported tendencies to dive in difficult situations or fail to make the right pass at the right time – is open to debate. Barcelona have Gerard Deulofeu in their ranks, a player of similar gifts and growing problems, but have effectively just paid at least 60 million euros to acquire a player they still need to work on with no guarantee that it will bear fruit.
Even if he proves all the doubters wrong, it still does not shake the impression that the club are returning to the bad old days – reinforced by their inability to learn from their mistakes of overplaying stars, the fighting and scenes of drunkenness witnessed amongst players on their supposed open bus celebration, the contradication between players and management in Pique’s assertion that they needed reinforcements and Rosell’s dismissal of those concerns after the Bayern match, as well as the uncomfortable fact of the president’s business links to Ricardo Teixeira – a man of immensely dubitable integrity whose has been proven to abuse football’s privileges for his own benefit in the past.