Neymar will be Barça's target as long as he does not renew his contract
The Brazilian, who faces Guardiola on Wednesday, is reluctant to disappear from the Barça radar
BarcelonaThe Champions League semi-finals have arrived and the two European clubs that have put the most millions into winning it for the first time in their history are facing each other in a semi-final that will have everything but audience. PSG welcomes Manchester City at the Parc des Princes. In other words, the team with the best strike partnership in Europe will face the side with the best collective approach in the Premier League, the continent's most demanding state competition. The Parisians come into the game after eliminating Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals thanks to Kylian Mbappé and Neymar Junior, two strikers they want to renew as soon as possible. Both finish their contracts in June 2022 and are in no hurry to sign an extension. The Frenchman is Real Madrid's number one target to reinforce their attack for the next decade and the Brazilian has yet to sign the deal that, according to media close to PSG, has been agreed on with Nasser al-Khelaifi for months.
After ARA reported in early April that Neymar had put his renewal on hold in order to explore the possibility of returning to Barça, the Qatari-owned French club moved to make it clear that the santista star is set to sign a contract until 2026 for the same amount of money that took him from Barcelona to Paris in 2017. PSG's plan to silence any rumours of a future in Culé's key was to force the official announcement of the renewal before the tie against Manchester City, taking advantage of the euphoria of the team's good performance in knocking Bayern out of the top flight. But the most he has achieved is that Neymar appeared in the run-up to the first leg against the English side to repeat, in a businesslike tone, what he said after beating the Bavarians. "I feel good in Paris, we are in talks with the club and I will do what is best for everyone", said the striker, who is more inclined to use fine words than forceful gestures to dispel the doubts that worry Al-Khelaifi.
As long as the renewal is not 100 per cent guaranteed, PSG will live uneasily with the ambiguity of Neymar, who was excited about the possibility of playing alongside Leo Messi again and now interprets that the Argentine is closer to staying at Barça than moving to Paris. That is why, without the yoke of the signature and the excuse of not talking about the future with the season underway, the Brazilian is giving the Qatar property with messages of unconditional love that, in reality, what they do is denote his resistance to disappear from the Catalan giants' orbit. In fact, Barça sources assure ARA that Neymar will remain a clear target to fight for as long as he does not secure his continuity at the Parc des Princes. In addition to closing the arrivals of Eric Garcia and a reserve striker at zero cost, in the offices of the Camp Nou they want to raise the level of the squad with an attacker of the highest order. And the Santista player, as long as he does not renew his contract, fits the profile. Haaland, Lautaro Martinez and some "other name that has not transcended" are also on the list of futuribles.
Guardiola in love with PSG's No10
However, the player's willingness alone would not be enough to get talks underway. In this sense, Joan Laporta and company are aware that relations with PSG have been rather bad for a long time and that the economic situation will not allow big spending if La Liga does not relax the salary caps. These two factors will limit the margin of action of the Barça negotiators, who will have to play their cards with surgical precision to improve the sporting project without pushing the numbers to the limit. This is where the name of Ousmane Dembélé comes in, who, like Neymar, has a contract expiring in 2022 and at the moment is not very willing to negotiate a lower deal. If the French winger maintains this position, Barça will either transfer him or use him as a bargaining chip, something they tried to do two years ago in the last frustrated attempt to repatriate the current PSG No10, of whom Pep Guardiola always raves. "If Neymar hadn't left, Barça would have two or three more Champions League titles", said the City boss, the Brazilian's rival for European glory.