Why Neymar could end up at Real Madrid one day
Neymar is history at Barcelona now. The Brazilian forward has been removed from all imagery at Camp Nou following his world record transfer to Paris Saint-Germain on Thursday and was the subject of some distasteful chants from fans in the Gamper Trophy clash against Chapecoense on Monday night.
Some supporters were heard singing "Neymar, muérete" (Neymar, die) during the 5-0 win - a particularly unpleasant line in its own right and even more so considering 19 Chapecoense players (and 52 others) lost their lives in last November's tragic air disaster in Colombia.
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While it was just a few idiots, the chant highlighted how the 25-year-old's status at Camp Nou has changed from hero to villain in the space of just a few days. And the only thing that can make it worse if he ends up at Real Madrid some time in future.
For a long time, it looked like Neymar would, indeed, sign for Los Blancos. As a youngster at Santos, the forward travelled to Madrid for a trial after Robinho's transfer to the Santiago Bernabeu in 2005 from the Brazilian club.
He spent 19 days in Madrid, attended home games and had his picture taken with the likes of Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos and Zinedine Zidane.
"It seems the Real Madrid dream is a reality," a 13-year-old Neymar told ESPN Brazil in 2005. "I went to the game against Deportivo La Coruna. It was 4-0. I was in the VIP box, just below the president [Florentino Perez]."
Neymar netted 27 goals for the youth team in his short trial, impressing fellow players and coaches alike. Real were keen to tie up a deal for the talented teenager.
"We were invited to come over and look at the facilities," the player's father told ESPN. "We had a car available to travel to the training sessions. Neymar met all of the players, took part in the training sessions. The doors were completely open."
However, Neymar had his doubts and decided to stay in Brazil. So, Madrid and his agent Wagner Ribeiro (who had brokered Robinho's Real move) agreed to keep in touch.
Later, when Neymar and Philippe Coutinho were part of the Brazil Under-16 side, the pair were interviewed by Marca and asked to name their dream club. "Real Madrid," the young Santos star replied.
Years later, a move to Madrid looked to be on the cards again and Neymar even underwent a medical with Los Blancos in 2011. However, he ended up staying with Santos and signed for Barcelona instead in 2013.
"Neymar passed a medical with Madrid. We tried for him to come, but we saw at one point that it was not possible and we withdrew (from the deal),” Perez said in an interview with Onda Cero earlier this year.
By that time, Neymar and his father had split from Ribeiro (a personal friend of Perez, who was keen for the player to join Real) and Barca had paid €10 million up front to steal a march on their fierce rivals, meaning Madrid would be forced to offer much more money to sign the forward.
Perez purchased Gareth Bale instead for a record €100m, but the club chief would love to sign Neymar one day and he will believe that a transfer is possible in future with the player at PSG and not Barca.
Neymar's people (now working with Ribeiro again) alerted Madrid to the possibility that their player could be available this summer, but Real were not interested in a move for the Brazilian at this stage - particularly with Cristiano Ronaldo occupying his favoured position on the left.
Following his transfer to PSG, Neymar told the media that he moved for "new challenges" after "winning everything" at Barcelona. However, the French giants will be expected to win Ligue 1 and everything else domestically after his arrival.
For PSG, it is all about winning the Champions League and if, in two or three years, the Parisians have won the continental competition or are still not challenging for European football's top trophy, Neymar might seek "new challenges" once again.
A transfer would not be straightforward. PSG have the financial might to be able to hang on to their finest footballers - as shown this summer when Marco Verratti stayed at the Parc des Princes despite the midfielder's interest in a move to Barcelona.
Verratti, however, is the type of player who does not want to upset fans or his club, whereas Neymar does not seem too bothered about that. After forcing an exit at both Santos and Barcelona, there is no guarantee he will not do something similar if he fancies a move to Madrid (or elsewhere) in two or three years.
Another famous Brazilian, Ronaldo, turned out for Barca and later Real, while he also featured for both Inter and AC Milan. And Neymar, with his legacy at Barca already tarnished by the manner of his exit, could well end up at Madrid one day - perhaps even as a replacement for Cristiano. Don't rule it out.