Fatal Attraction: Neymar's bitter divorce battle with Barcelona won't prevent reunion

Neymar Bartomeu Messi Barcelona GFX
The Brazilian has been ordered to repay his former club €6.7m, but the case will probably continue - just like their obsession with one another

When Ander Herrera and his partner Isabel Collado arrived for Neymar's 28th birthday party at a lavish studio in Paris on February 2, they were surprised to learn that the top floor had been assigned to couples, and the bottom to singles.

“Of course, my wife wouldn't let me go to the bathroom or go down [to the bottom floor]!" the Spaniard joked in an interview with La Resistencia.

“The truth is that when Neymar organises something, he does it to have fun."

Essentially, Neymar usually does whatever he feels like.

When he felt like he needed to step out of Lionel Messi's shadow in order to win the Ballon d'Or, he made the bold decision to leave Barcelona in 2017.

And if he feels like returning to Camp Nou, he will do so.

Friday's news that he will have to repay his former club €6.7 million (£6.1m/$7.5m) won't change anything in that regard.

Neymar can appeal the ruling made by Social Court 15 in Barcelona and that would hardly come as a surprise, given it was he who instigated the legal proceedings, believing that the Blaugrana owed him €43.6m (£39m/$49m) in unpaid bonuses.

So, this case is not over yet. But nor is the most drawn-out transfer saga in modern history.

If anyone thinks that a bitter courtroom battle means that Neymar's potential Camp Nou return is now dead in the water, they really haven't fully grasped the extent of the player's dysfunctional relationship with Barca.

Neymar Barcelona PSG Champions League 2017 GFX

Just because they’re divorced doesn’t mean that they won’t get back together. Theirs is a fatal attraction, a damaging, toxic love affair that should have been a match made in heaven but instead looks like the marriage from hell.

Perhaps it was doomed from the start. Neymar's arrival generated colossal excitement among the fans but it caused chaos at boardroom level. Sandro Rosell even resigned as club president in January 2014 because of an investigation into the forward's transfer from Santos.

On the field, Neymar thrived, going on to form one of the greatest attacking triumvirates in football history with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, with the three South Americans firing Barca to a treble in 2015.

They remain great friends and would dearly love to be reunited. Indeed, Barca's failed attempt to re-sign Neymar last summer is one of the key factors in the colossal divide that now exists between Messi and current president Josep Maria Bartomeu.

Many fans would welcome Neymar back too. Indeed, before last August's Liga loss at Athletic Club, supporters gathered outside the Barca team hotel in Bilbao and when Bartomeu arrived, the crowd chanted: "Neymar! Neymar! Neymar!"

This was a remarkable show of support for a player who ditched Barca a year after signing a new contract – and then made matters worse by taking legal action against the club.

Neymar attracts trouble. He always has. As Johan Cruyff said back in 2015: "Neymar's always in the centre of the storm for things outside of football."

But Bartomeu, like many Barca fans, remains inexplicably drawn to the Brazilian.

The sporting appeal is obvious, of course. Neymar remains an extraordinarily talented footballer, a man blessed with arguably greater natural ability than even the great Messi.

“Watching Neymar week in, week out,” Spanish football writer Andy West recalls to Goal, “when he was at his best at Barcelona, he could do things that Messi couldn't.

“But Neymar enjoys other things too much. He doesn't have that same ruthless commitment to his career as Messi.

“If anything, his football career is a vehicle for his commercial career. So, he hasn't been able to sustain his brilliance in the same way.”

Neymar Johan Cruyff PSG party GFX

Yet Messi would like him back at Barca. Countless others would too. They remember the joy Neymar brought them on the pitch – not the controversy he courted off it.

Barca can't really afford him, of course. But this really isn't about money – it's about emotions.

Barca were hurt when Neymar left them. They've never got over it. Then again, neither has he. As the whole court case underlined.

When he secured his world-record move to PSG, he could have just moved on. Instead, he went looking for bonuses tied to a contract that he had essentially just broken.

Throughout the subsequent legal action, though, Neymar never stopped flirting with a return to Camp Nou.

When asked about his favourite memory in football last year, he admitted it was Barcelona’s remarkable ‘Remontada’ against PSG in 2017: “I have never felt anything like it.”

Neymar PSG

Ironically, that night played a part in his eventual departure, as Neymar was known to have been hurt by the fact that images of Messi dominated the front pages of the following day’s papers even though he had been the catalyst for the comeback.

And so, he eventually left, less than six months after that epic night at Camp Nou, believing he would be better off alone.

It hasn’t worked out that way, of course. He has been blighted by injuries since joining PSG and has yet to come close to winning the Ballon d’Or.

Just like Barca, he hasn’t lifted the Champions League since 2015. Neymar has often insisted that he is happy at PSG, while Bartomeu even claimed that the Selecao star's replacement, Ousmane Dembele, was a better player. 

Both just sound like former partners trying desperately to make out that they won the break up. The reality is that Neymar has missed Barcelona just as much as they have missed him.

The court case merely represents a twisted expression of an enduring obsession with one another.

So, the drama is likely to continue. And probably won't stop until Neymar and Barca are reunited, for better or for worse.