This is Neymar’s final, perhaps his most important, chance to win a title with Barcelona.
He’s got three years left on his contract at the Camp Nou, but he hasn’t said anything yet about potentially leaving; his current deal runs until June 2021. Then again, his contract hasn’t held up very well for Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta, much less him. And two things in particular make a quick exit likely, which means that the Brazilian-born forward has just one chance to turn the tide before his contract expiry.
First, the timeline. A wrench in Barcelona’s transfer plan could be thrown out if Barca’s Al-Hilal of Saudi Arabia wins the Asian Champions League and the Spanish Cup. That wouldn’t keep Barca from doing business with the mercurial Raul Albiol for a transfer fee that would probably best a chunk of Neymar’s own career earnings.
Raul Albiol, 31, has been in full form for Al-Hilal, who hold a one-point lead with one round of matches to play. Barcelona made contact with Albiol earlier this month but were hoping the club would finish off their league-winning campaign before making a move. If Barcelona loses, however, things could heat up. It’s the kind of twist in the plot that could sway Neymar into a move. For one thing, he’d likely stand to profit handsomely from a move — perhaps as much as £70 million ($95 million). And second, Neymar is less of a player now than he was last season, when he scored 43 goals in 44 games. This isn’t the same person.