Barcelona seem to be a lost cause at the moment. They have lost their identity, and are running in circles trying to sign one big name after the other in order to reconnect with their glory days. Josep Bartemou’s goal of trying to make the club the first with over a billion euros of revenue seems to be on track, but that has come at costs that the Camp Nou faithfuls are not willing to accept.
According to SkySports, Barcelona are looking to ramp up their pursuit of Neymar Jr. by adding Antoine Griezmann to the deal which would also include some cash. The report also states that Paris Saint Germain value the Brazilian at nearly €150 million while Barcelona consider Griezmann is worth atleast €100 million.
This isn’t the first time Neymar has been linked to a move back to Barcelona. Infact, reports suggested that he was ready to come back only after a season in France. None of it panned out, though, and Neymar denied any possible link at that time saying he wanted to win the Champions League at PSG.
All this just feels like a desperate attempt to reunite MSN and relive their glory days when the trio used to outscore entire clubs at the pinnacle of European football. Moreover, it looks like Barcelona are willing to give into anything that Lionel Messi demands, even though most of it – including a new contract seems uncalled for.
Despite all this, we at The Hard Tackle believe that swapping Griezmann for Neymar would prove to be beneficial for both Barcelona and PSG – atleast in the short term.
From PSG’s perspective:
A huge point of Point of Order that arises here is ‘Why would PSG want to to lose Neymar, especially in a swap, when there are clubs ready to spill nearly €200 million for him?’, and it is more than valid.
The Brazilian is arguably the better player of the two, and is having inarguably the better season. He was due for a move to Spain in the June of 2019 itself, but when it didn’t reach a conclusion, Neymar took the league in his stride and is the protagonist of potentially the Champions League winners.
However, he has been the centre of attention for all wrong reasons throughout his career, and in the last 3 odd seasons, especially because of his long and untimely injuries. He has missed a staggering 62 games in his PSG career due to injuries. That is 10 more than the number of appearances he has made for the French club. Both of his long term absences have come due to recurring lesions in the ankle.
To add fuel to the fire, Neymar is constantly involved in off the pitch antics, mostly related to parties and drinking. He also has a knack to disobey match officials, getting into arguments and often being on the wrong end of bookings. It would be fair to say his play acting is nearly over, but he is the subject to a lot of fouls, which means he a spends a lot of time on the floor, and is hence criticised.
And if all of this does not seem enough for PSG to lose Neymar for good, and amend their reputation while they still can, they might get a superstar for the one they are losing. Griezmann would be a lovely addition to the club, and to Thomas Tuchel’s system.
The World Cup winner has shared the pitch with Kylian Mbappe on several occasions, including the 2018 World Cup where their understanding was nearly telepathic. The forward duo used to constantly engage in one-twos building the attack slowly and eventually releasing more forwards.
For Mbappe, this is a like for like situation, because he has this type of connection with Neymar as well. He also gets to be the sole superstar at the club instead of sharing limelight with the former Barca man.
Tactically speaking, Griezmann fits in seamlessly into Tuchel’s oddball formations. The German coach prefers a 4-2-3-1 or more recently a 4-2-2-2, where he’s played Neymar and one of Pablo Sarabia or Angel di Maria behind Mbappe and Mauro Icardi. One of the attacking midfielders stays central, while the other one goes wide giving space for them to attack through the centre and from the flanks at the same time.
The 29 year old can play as a winger, a sole striker, but his best position remains to be the AM/SS role, where he played under Diego Simeone. He hasn’t got the chance to play that role in Barcelona, though. Griezmann can and has played as a traditional number 10 in France’s 4-2-3-1, and he can also play as one of the attacking midfielders in a 4-2-2-2.
Tuchel has also experimented with a 2 up-top in the Champions League, with Di Maria playing the SS role, mostly not to perfection however. This is where Griezmann’s experience as a Deep Lying Forward makes him a threat.
A problem that PSG face a lot of times is that with Neymar in the team, the rest of the players such as Di Maria, Mbappe, Sarabia do not get a fair share of the ball, even though they are brilliant with the ball. Griezmann in the team would automatically solve that issue, as he connects the with the forwards brilliantly with rapid passing and off the ball movement.
Paris is a team of supertstars, and some of them do not exactly feel the need to defend or press. Neymar is one of them. He has had this issue since his time with the Blaugrana, where his absolute disregard to defend often lead Andres Iniesta and Jordi Alba stranded. They do not have this issue with Griezmann who’s work rate is probably the best of any forward in the world.
More often than not, Griezmann drops as deep as Alba to isolate the attacker and cut passing lanes. He is also the first person pressing the opposition defenders, pinning them to the edge of the box, and forcing them to switch lanes or play an unnecessary ball over the top. Tuchel is a manager who loves heavy and constant pressing, starting from the first forward. The Petit Prince abilities would be appreciated at PSG.
From Barcelona’s perspective:
The Catalan giants’ respect has taken a huge blow in the recent seasons. It started when they lost Neymar to PSG after absolutely smacking them 6-1 in the UCL where no other than Neymar was the man of the match. After that it was the desperate attempt to sign Ousmane Dembele as a replacement for O Joia.
Their pursuit of the youngster ruined their relations with Borussia Dortmund after he refused to participate in training or play matches for the German club.
They also hampered their relationship with Liverpool after trying to sign Philippe Coutinho, who handed in a transfer request to leave Merseyside. It would’ve worked out just fine for Lionel Messi and co. had the two €100 million signings paid off with their performances. However, it didn’t work out; Dembele has major injury issues, and Coutinho has been labelled as a failed transfer.
Baremou also attempted to get Antoine Griezmann from Atletico Madrid who was at the peak of his powers, winning the World Cup and the Europa League in the span of a month. This took an embarrassing turn for Lionel Messi and co. when Gerard Pique asked Griezmann to announce his decision to join Barcelona using his video application, but the Frenchman ended up announcing that he’ll stay at Atletico.
Amidst failed transfers and the over pursuit of average players, Barcelona also made a mockery of themselves in the Champions League for two seasons running, bottling 3 goal leads to AS Roma in 2018 and then Liverpool in 2019. The final nail in the coffin came when they finally got the signature of Griezmann, a year too late, which was followed by an obviously upset fanbase.
Griezmann has had a rather inconsistent first season in the Catalan capital, scoring a mere 8 goals in 26 La Liga games. He’s also not necessarily connected well with his teammates on the pitch barring maybe Frenkie de Jong. There has been some games where he’s really shown why he’s absolutely world class, but it has been disappointing for the most part.
Getting rid of the former Atletico forward would only bring more criticism, especially if it is supplemented by the arrival of Neymar in a player swap, but Griezmann’s position does not actually exist at the club, and it never will because Messi occupies a very similar space.
However, getting in Neymar would solve a lot of problems for the club, the first of them being that he’s a world class winger. Barcelona have had problems with the absence of wingers since the Brazilian left, playing a variety of players in that role to no success. Coutinho, Dembele, Ansu Fati, Rafinha Alcantara, Carles Perez, Andres Iniesta have all occupied that left wing but have failed to fill the void left behind by the Brazilian captain.
Quique Setien likes to play quick wingers on both flanks who can outpace defenders and stretch the channel making space for midfielders to move forward and occupy spaces between the attackers so they can attack with 5 men. Griezmann, however, likes to play through the centre and isn’t particularly great at staying wide to create space for himself. Neymar, on the other hand, excels at that kind of thing.
This would also rejuvenate the Messi and Neymar connection which so so evident in the 4 seasons they played together. The South Americans literally used to walk past defences while keeping the ball between them picking each other out with one touch football.
It was unlike any other partnership Messi has had in his career. No wonder he still longs for him like a former lover, like Alex Turner in each of his albums.
In an interview with Sport, the six time Ballon d’or winner said, “It bothered me at the time and we tried to convince him not to do it. But we all want to win and have the best players around us. He’s one of the best players in the world and he brought a lot to the team. But it’s understandable that people would see it as leaving in a bad way.”
“He is desperate to return and has always appeared to regret his decision. He did a lot to come back and that would be the first step in making it happen. He was always fine at Barca, performing at a very high level. He’s a different type of player who is difficult to stop one-on-one and scores goals.”
It’s clear that the captain wants Neymar back at the club. But that seems a bit far fetched at the moment, specially because Barca have to prioritise Messi’s contract extension and signing a new striker in this summer, with Luis Suarez now 33 years old.
The main problem that Neymar would solve if he comes back at the club is Barcelona seemed to have lost the fighting spirit that the winger brought to the club. He led the team to the famous La Remontada after they had lost the first game 4-0.
Soon after that, Barca lost 3-0 against Juventus away from home, and Neymar looked like the only player who put in efforts to overturn the scoreline. He’s also shown his tremendous spirit for Brazil, specially at the Rio de Janeiro in 2016 when the men in yellow clutched the title with Neymar scoring the winning penalty.
Largely based on an assumption, but it is probable that neither of the comebacks would’ve happened with Neymar at the club. It might seem like a very stupid move to the fans who are already tired of the club’s representation, but bringing him back would only mean benefits for Barcelona, specially if it is in a player plus cash deal.
Barcelona would have to pay almost €50 million over Griezmann to fund the transfer, which means they can bring in Lautaro Martinez in the same window.