Neymar was once considered the third-best player on the planet behind Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, with a bronze medal claimed in the prestigious Ballon d’Or vote on two occasions between 2015 and 2017.
The enigmatic Brazilian played with a smile on his face and boasted the technical ability to trouble any defence on the planet.
It is fair to say that a sense of joy has drained out of his game somewhat over recent years at Paris Saint-Germain – to the point that transfer talk is seemingly never far away from the flamboyant South American.
Neymar picked up an injury in February and missed the last 14 Ligue 1 games of the season.
He still finished second in most assists in the league with 11 👏 pic.twitter.com/OijxkPJRyT
— B/R Football (@brfootball) June 26, 2023
There has been more of that to be found in recent months, with clubs in England said to have shot admiring glances across the Channel. Newcastle, Chelsea and Arsenal have all been credited with interest and are expected to form part of the top four-chasing pack in 2023-24.
The Magpies are priced at +160 in Premier League betting odds to book return tickets to the Champions League, while the Gunners sit at -250 and the Blues of Stamford Bridge +125. All of those clubs, from north London to the North East, are crying out for individual attacking inspiration while chasing down ultimate collective targets.
Neymar would have ticked a creative box for any side seeking a spark in the final third of the field. He has, however, been overlooked by all of his supposed suitors. Just as an exit door appeared to be swinging open in Paris, it quickly slammed shut.
The man himself may not be overly concerned about that, as he is about to step out of a sizeable Messi-shaped shadow for the second time in his career. The iconic Argentine has departed PSG for Inter Miami in the United States, while further departures are being speculated on at Parc des Princes.
More will be demanded of Neymar if he once again becomes the leading light in a galaxy of stars, with the South American often thriving when filling the role of talisman – as he does on a regular basis when donning the colors of his country.
He has, however, previously expressed a desire to test himself in England. Neymar has said: “The Premier League is a championship that amazes me. I like the playing style and the teams. And who knows? Someday, I would like to play [in] it, yes. I admire Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool – these are the teams that are always there fighting.”
I’ll come back stronger 🙏 pic.twitter.com/VBTH9MME02
— Neymar Jr (@neymarjr) March 6, 2023
Just about all of those mentioned above have been linked with a move for Neymar at some stage. No deal has ever been put in place and it may be that a window of opportunity is closing for good.
With a contract through to 2025 being worked on in Paris, and questions being asked of his ability to perform consistently while steering clear of the treatment table, Neymar’s stock is likely to only head in one direction from here.
Premier League audiences – which now extend to every corner of the planet – would have loved him. He can be a divisive character, but the very best in any given field often are and there may be more than a few regrets scattered throughout England from St James’ Park to Emirates Stadium.