“Life comes at you fast” has become a Twitter meme, usually dragged out when circumstances rear up like a great white shark, to bite somebody in the ass.
It wasn’t that long ago that Marco Verratti, the best player at PSG, was on culer lips being talked about like he was a birthright. It was only a matter of time before he comes, “next Xavi,” just throw enough money at PSG and he will leave that little club, etc, etc. Barça president Josep Bartomeu went to Paris in an effort to talk to PSG about the player, and returned saying, “They won’t talk about it. We will wait and see.”
Yes, we will. And life comes at you fast. Not that long ago board members as well as Bartomeu were saying that Neymar would stay at the club, “200 percent.” Today, Bartomeu is saying that if a club pays a player’s release clause, that player can leave. A lot changes, but here’s something worth considering:
This wretched shitshow is no less than we deserve.
Neymar came to Barça during a late-night drama that involved numerous contracts, some boondoggles, some shady deals that involved tax lawyers and ritual sacrifices and finally, Sandro Rosell’s marquee signing was in the house.
When Neymar came few wanted him, talking about selfishness, hair, marketing and all the other stuff that is part and parcel of a modern player. We scoff because we are seduced by goat farmers, mushroom raisers, absentee vineyard owners and newlyweds who do headers in a pool with a teammate on video.
There was a turmoil over the real cost of the operation, then a soci action that forced the club to “reveal” the “real” transfer figures in a deal with more twists and turns than a corn maze. Third parties wanted their hunk of flesh. Santos was salty because of the tranfser value of Neymar versus the real value of the contract. There was that 40m payment to N+N, and was that salary or transfer fee and who knows, really? The tax man wanted his cut, in Brazil and Spain. Rosell resigned, and the legal party kept on rolling, all as a result of a shady transfer for a player whose entourage was always rumored to be a sideeye away from another bag of money.
And now the player that so many didn’t want is leaving. So what’s the problem? Mad because he’s going to a lesser club? What do you care? Someone else will have to deal with his marketing, and trips on private jets to family functions.
Today, instead of Verratti talking about coming to Barça, he has starred in a PSG-produced video that talks about how happy he is, and Neymar is having dinner in Miami in a restaurant named Paris, amid rumors of 25m “loyalty” payments due on the day he announces that he will be leaving Barça for PSG. It’s more layers of shady transactions happening as the originator of the grand design, Rosell, watches it all from jail.
Life comes at you fast, indeed.
So much of this contretemps is illogical, and what isn’t illogical is probably bullshit. But that won’t stop the rage, because it’s the drama we crave. “He’s leaving. I told you. Cruijff was right. Two captains can’t coexist.” “I never liked him anyway.”
And at the end of a nasty, tempestuous period that started with Rosell’s presidency and Neymar’s transfer to Barça, a time during which the team won another treble, a double and pulled off the must stunning comeback in the history of the Champions League, it’s fair to ask is the club where it and its fanbase deserve to be.
The club sucks, the board sucks, we’re a small club, we can’t do this, we can’t do that, everyone is incompetent. Okay. Twitter fights, factions, contempt and tempests are all part of parcel of a shitshow where entitled people snarl about a team not wanting to sell its best player to us. How DARE they? And doom. The board will bring doom, its president will bring doom, doom is right around the corner, doom and gloom. It’s greatest player should leave because the club sucks and its board doesn’t deserve him. By association, can we presume that we don’t either? Predictions come to pass, and life comes at you fast.
The club is saying it will report PSG to FIFA if they pay the buyout clause for Neymar, given that the total cost of the operation would approach a half-billion Euros and be in significant, holy crap violation of an already defanged FFP. The latest, of course, is that Javier Tebas, head of La Liga, the man rumored to be in the bag for Real Madrid, is pledging to fight for Neymar every bit as hard as Barça is fighting. This, too, is nonsense, as PSG isn’t part of La Liga. What Tebas can do is snuffle indiganantly, just another empty gesture in a situation filled with them.
The doom that so many have crowed about, seemingly welcomed with open arms and Twitter browsers, would appear to be here. The second best player in the game will, by all reports, be wrested from Barça not by force, but by player desire. Neymar wants to leave Barça, even as people claim he is torn and conflicted. But if his people approached PSG, it beggars description how that could be the signal of a conflicted player. Neymar wants to leave. If he didn’t, none of this would be happening.
Does he want more money from the club, and a bluff is now a point of no return? Sure, why not. Just more crap to add to the shower of it. None of it makes any sense at all, so why not this, as well?
At the end of the friendly against Real Madrid, the handshakes as Neymar was subbed off had an air of finality. He sat by himself at the end of the bench, looking for all the world like a man on his way to somewhere else, who no longer feels part of the group that he just celebrated the winning goal with. The drama we deserve.
And so many dire predictions are coming to pass as a club becomes the festering hell that so many foretold. Censure vote efforts are on, ex-presidents (another one, that is) in jail. Tax scandals. Neymar had a fight with a teammate and was kicked out of training by the new coach. Iniesta said it was no big deal but no, it was more doom. Neynar was shoving security guards. Neymar was partying with Demi Lovato. Neymar will make a promotional appearance in China, jetting there directly after the U.S. tour. From there to Paris? Rumor has it.
Appreciate what you have is one of those weird things that is always said with a rueful tone by someone who understands, only now, why we should. Neymar was capering, dancing, getting kicked and bleeding for the cause. He was growing as a player under the companionship of the best the game has ever seen, and fluffing his feathers in the PSG comeback.
But through it all, he was wrong for his boot shenanigans, wrong for loving his sister enough to want to be at her birthday party, wrong for hair, wrong for marketing, wrong for not taking the game as seriously as so many in a fanbase demanded he take it, unless he took it too seriously and got wound up. Then he was a hothead and an idiot, who kinda brought being kicked on himself by showing up opponents with those silly tricks and flicks.
Now that he’s about to leave, people are angry. Why? If you say the club is going somewhere then it ends up there, what’s the problem? At least there will be more than 200m Euros coming out of it. Neymar could have engineered leaving on a free, or sitting until the next-to-last year of his deal, then jacking the club with a diminished fee from a desperation sale. When your prediction becomes truth, what’s the point of rage?
A lot of the anger is because players like that don’t leave Barça, they come to Barça. But Neymar came to Barça as a young player, looking to grow. He’s grown so yes, it’s time for him to leave. Is PSG the best, most logical destination? Not from anyone’s worldview except his father and his banker. It makes so little sense that at the end of all this, it could be revealed as a bluff and he could end up staying. But there it all is, along with the rage, and culers demanding he get out, and never darken our doorstep again.
“Oh, but the board will do something stupid with that money, just you wait.” Like buy another Semedo, Umtiti or Cillessen? No, those can’t be the template. It has to be the worst, because everything is the worst. So they will take that 222m and buy 40 Douglases — a squadron of failures to mate with a legacy of failure. Never mind that the next great president that Barça has will be the first.
Isaiah wrote a lovely piece about the human side of this, and it’s excellent. You should read it. But from this chair, this whole thing is a circus. People predicted it, people seemed to want it to come to pass, and yet there is no joy in the reality, no joy in a massive, irreplaceable talent leaving a club that is reeling on so many fronts. Even youth football, once the vaunted pride and joy of the club, is now a source of doom. Player is scum, father is scum, PSG is scum, board is scum, Bartomeu is scum, everybody, scum.
In “Exactly What You Wanted,” Helmet sings:
I let you down again / What’s another harmless lie between friends / Now you can’t be disappointed / I thought I gave you just exactly what you wanted
So what next? Recriminations against the player who is doing nothing more than securing his future. Not a moment will be spared for a toxic atmosphere that didn’t contribute to Neymar leaving, but is certainly part of the overall circus that the club has become since the glory days of Pep Guardiola. We scream, we demand, we carry our placards that read, “The World Will End.”
And now it is. What next?