Paris Saint-Germain want Neymar to stay at the club this summer but only if he produces far greater effort with analysis of his performances apparently showing he has only played at around 60 per cent capacity for them.
PSG have decided to get tough with a number of their under-performing stars following the return of Leonardo as their sporting director in a move to get the team back on track.
The club is well aware of the interest in Neymar from Barcelona and that the Brazilian’s father, Neymar senior, may be keen for his son to make a lucrative return to the Nou Camp. PSG want Neymar to stay but are willing to sell if it comes down to it and their demands are met.
It took a world record fee of €222million (£199million) – his buy-out clause – to sign Neymar from Barcelona in 2017 and despite him underperforming PSG would expect more than that amount if he is sold.
Neymar has three years left on his contract at PSG, who are reviewing the whole of their squad after yet again failing to do well in the Champions League, losing out in the last-16 to Manchester United.
Older, big-name stars such as Gianluigi Buffon and Dani Alves have already left after it was decided they had not proved to be value for money. It has been suggested that Alves’ departure will hasten his friend Neymar leaving but it is not linked.
Neymar has only played one Champions League knock-out match for PSG and is currently injured, again, with a damaged ankle which has ruled him out of playing for Brazil in the Copa America.
There is even concern that his lifestyle is more akin to a pop star than a football player and it is hoped the message will get through to him that now, at 27, he needs to fulfil his potential, when it was hoped that he would succeed Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as the best player in the world.
That mantle now appears more likely to be taken by Neymar’s PSG team-mate Kylian Mbappe.
There is a new approach at PSG and one that is, in truth, born of frustration. For all the growth made off the pitch – they have, for example, become the first French club to sell one million shirts worldwide and have hugely increased their profile and revenue – it has not yet been matched on it.
Neymar has become the focus for much of that under-achievement – with the analysis that he has played at around 60 per cent and has more to give - which is understandable given the outlay it took to get him, the wages he is being paid and what he was expected to bring to the club who are desperate to win the Champions League.
PSG are introducing a much stricter set of rules and hope that Neymar will be able to align himself to what they want under Leonardo, who has replaced Antero Henrique who was deemed to have been too lenient.
It meant that too much responsibility fell on the shoulders of head coach Thomas Tuchel, who retains the full backing of the club and was recently rewarded with a contract extension until June 2021.
Leonardo was PSG’s sporting director from 2011 to 2013 and the Brazilian also played for the club for two years. Most recently he was AC Milan’s sporting director but his return to Paris is being seen by the club as an opportunity to reassess where they are at - with Leonardo given the power to buy and sell players and change the approach.
Clearly that was directed at Neymar who, it is understood, would like to return to Barcelona although he has yet to communicate that to PSG. It is believed the club would consider selling him but only if their price is met.
It may be that Barcelona try and tempt PSG with a cash plus player deal – with either Philippe Coutinho or Ousmane Dembele added to the transfer – but even then the French giants would want a significant amount of cash.
An added complication is that Neymar is in an ongoing legal dispute with Barcelona over a withheld loyalty bonus, damages and interest with both parties taking action against each other.
PSG also know that there is, obviously, a limited market for a player of Neymar’s worth and with Real Madrid having already spent extremely heavily this summer they are not in the running at present. PSG also have no interest in signing Paul Pogba from Manchester United and also believe that Neymar does not want to play in the Premier League.
It means that PSG hope Neymar will come round to their way of thinking and understand that it is in his best interests to stay with them and try to be the player he can be and win the Champions League.