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Neymar went to PSG because no club is that special, not even Barcelona

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Neymar doesn’t have to revere Barcelona just because everyone else does.

Neymar has done the reverse Ronaldinho. The young Brazilian who seemed like the second coming of the old one is going to PSG from Barcelona.

The Parisian club decided to throw an absurd amount of money at one of the best players in the world in hopes of salvaging the remains of their project to become a European force, which was made a mockery by Neymar himself when he brought Barcelona back from a six-goal deficit against PSG last season. And Neymar, though he will break up one of the soccer world’s greatest attacking forces, is making the sensible move by taking the truckload of money put before him.

The fact that he's leaving Barcelona is the most offensive part of this deal. Barcelona have historically been better than PSG — even will continue to be even without Neymar. Barcelona, along with Real Madrid, Bayern, and a few others, are the top, the dream, the big move that a player makes before playing out the rest of his career at smaller clubs. You don’t go up from Barcelona, and you don’t leave Barcelona for another team unless the club wants to sell you.

Five years ago, when the internet and soccer media were still young, the blog Surreal Football released a guide titled, “Thou Shalt Always Kill: A guide to the internet and football,” based on the song by Dan Le Sac and Scroobius Pip. Some of the rules included things like:

Thou shalt think for yourselves.

Thou shalt not stop liking Jose Mourinho just because he’s become popular.

Thou shalt not take the names of Diego Maradona, Eric Cantona, Thierry Henry, Franco Baresi, Henrik Larsson or Robbie Fowler in vain.

One of the best rules tore down the deification of clubs like Barcelona:

Barcelona… Are just a club.

Athletic Bilbao… Just a club.

Napoli… Just a club.

Universidad de Chile… Just a club.

Montpellier… Just a club.

Swansea… Just a club.

Porto… Just a club.

AZ… Just a club.

Borussia Dortmund… Just a club.

Hoffenheim… Just a club.

MK Dons… Just a club.

The Next Big Thing… JUST A CLUB.

Neymar’s biggest transgression is that he’s treating Barcelona the same way that he treated Santos. He’s one of the best players in the world, and he’s leaving a club and fan base that see themselves as extraordinary. Their reasonings for his move have ranged from the pro-Neymar stance of “he wants his own team,” to the anti-Messi stance that “Messi pushed him out,” and the anti-Neymar stance that “he’s a mercenary.”

Those arguments may all be true, or they may all be wrong, but the heart of each of them is confusion: Why he would leave such a team? There’s the entitlement of being BARCELONA. When asked if he would ever leave the club, in reference to Neymar, Luis Suarez said: “Even if [another club] offered me triple the money to leave, I wouldn't leave.” Because that is expected when you play for Barcelona. It’s an honor.

Except that Barcelona are still just a club. This entitlement isn’t exclusive to the Spanish team either, which is the funny thing. Most big clubs see themselves the same way: as the final destination. And when great players decide to leave on their own, the backlash is as violent as it is expected. There are online and real life abuses, jerseys burned, the player is labeled as a mercenary, and fans do mental gymnastics to convince themselves that the player isn’t as good as he actually is.

The revisionism will say that Neymar wasn’t that good — it was all Messi — as a coping mechanism for the realization that some players don’t see these big clubs in the same way that their fans or clubs do.

Barcelona got Neymar from Santos under murky financial circumstances, and they’re losing him to PSG under murky financial circumstances. Neymar went to Barcelona because they offered him the most money and a great project, and now, having won trophies there, he’s going somewhere else because they’re offering him, and this has to be said again, a truckload of money and a good project.

To cry that Neymar is committing some act of betrayal to a team that has done what PSG is doing to many other teams is the embodiment of hypocrisy. This is just what clubs do at every level. It will happen to your team, regardless of how big or More Than A Club you want to believe it is. Especially now, when the money in the game has reached outlandish levels.

That’s not to say that there are not players who still see Barcelona as the end goal. Messi and Iniesta will only leave if the team no longer wants them. The club is part of them. The same goes for all other teams. There will always be players who see these big teams as the dream teams to play for, and they may even be the majority of players. But there are those who don’t. There are players who are motivated by their own desires, whose identities aren’t linked to these teams, who will leave as soon as a better situation comes up.

That reality is not something to be frustrated about. It’s just the truth of the sporting world. For his own reasons, Neymar is leaving Barcelona for PSG, the same way he left Santos and possibly in the same way that he will leave PSG in the future. A ridiculous amount of money will exchange hands and the cycle will continue forever.


What does Barcelona do with all their Neymar money?