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Should Manchester United make a move for Neymar?

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It’s only a rumor, but Colin Damms discusses the pros and cons of a potential move for the prolific, flashy, and controversial winger.

Paris Saint-Germain v Celtic FC - UEFA Champions League Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Neymar is perhaps the biggest name circulating in the transfer rumor carousel. The Brazilian maestro appears to be all but gone from PSG just a year on from his record smashing €222m transfer just a year ago. He isn’t gone yet, and any move would likely take place after the World Cup, but he has been strongly linked with Real Madrid and (to a lesser extent) Manchester United.

This article will examine the pros and cons of a potential move for Neymar in the coming 2018 summer transfer window.

Pro: World Class Attacking Talent

Neymar may not have had the best attitude at PSG, but it rarely affected his chemistry on the pitch with his teammates. He finished the 2017-18 campaign with 27 goals and 13 assists despite injury and apparent inter-team disputes.

Romelu Lukaku had an identical goalscoring haul in his first season at Old Trafford, but somehow left the impression that there should have been more. Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, and Jesse Lingard each had their own stretch of form, but neither were able to truly make an impact all season. The same can be said for Alexis Sánchez after his arrival in the January window. Alexis has yet to produce consistently at United, but it may be down to a chemistry issue considering his short time at the club so far.

Neymar is a versatile attacker with world class skill and scoring ability. He can play anywhere along the attacking line of United’s midfield, including the no. 10 role. Neymar’s style may not be a perfect fit with Mourinho, but it’s clear from the signings and coaching changes that the gaffer wants more attacking style and talent added to the squad.

With Paul Pogba finally getting more attacking opportunities, and the addition of the attack minded Brazilian midfielder Fred, United are finally looking to be a forward thinking side under Mourinho. Adding Neymar could be perfect for that this summer.

Con: Massive Price Tag

Neymar will no doubt cost a fortune. PSG paid €222m last summer, and one can expect whatever club moves for him next they will almost certainly need to match or beat that world record sum.

Though United are consistently one of the richest and most profitable franchises in the world, this sort of fee will make chief executive Ed Woodward think twice before writing the check. Not to mention both PSG and Barcelona have been investigated for transfer fees paid for Neymar.

Neymar’s family have been named in the investigations into the transfer fees, and the details of his transfer in 2013 revealed an enormous amount of the fee Barcelona paid went to his agent and parents. The club was subsequently charged with tax fraud, and the club’s president was forced to resign.

In addition to the fee Neymar’s wages are absolutely staggering at PSG, rumored around £600,000 a week, and whatever club moves for him will almost certainly have to offer an increase on that number.

The fees may be the biggest red flag when it comes to a move for Neymar considering the shady past he’s had with transfers, and the club may not want the unnecessary attention.

Pro: Profit and Popularity

On the other hand, Neymar at Manchester United will lead to massive profits for the club. Neymar is one of the most popular players in the world who brings millions of extra fans to whatever club he plays for, and that massive popularity could boost a club that is already has the biggest fanbase in the world.

Make no mistake. Neymar’s arrival at Old Trafford will be shortly followed by a boom in jersey sales across the globe. At one point PSG were selling more Neymar shirts than they could make. Ligue 1’s rise has been steady since the Qatar Sports Investments takeover in 2011, but Neymar has brought unprecedented worldwide attention to the entire league.

Manchester United are already an established club historically and financially, but the addition of Neymar will have an even bigger impact than Pogba, who recently said it would be a pleasure to play with the Brazilian.

Con: Depth at Left Winger (The Martial-Alexis Problem)

One of the major problems with Manchester United’s current squad is the excess of talent on the left wing while the no. 10 and right wing positions could use some attention. Alexis Sánchez, Marcus Rashford, and Anthony Martial currently occupy left wing roster spots, and the latter two’s playing time has already been cut back due to the arrival of Alexis. Adding Neymar would have to mean either experimenting with new positions or moving on from one of the current players.

Experimenting with the squad is doable, but is likely to upset players. Marcus Rashford has proven to be both willing and capable to play on the right hand side of the attack, or even through the center.

Neymar could play in the no. 10 role, but his lack of physicality would be a setback in the position as he transitions to a much more physical league than Ligue 1 or La Liga. Martial and Alexis Sánchez haven’t been very effective moving away from the left wing. Alexis has shown flashes playing behind Lukaku, but his continuing problem of team chemistry has been a major setback to the 29 year-old’s progress, something that has caused drama since his arrival in January. Martial, a fan favorite, has even been linked with a move away after being benched in favor of Alexis.

If Neymar were to arrive it would likely spell the end of Martial’s career at Old Trafford. Marcus Rashford is a generational Academy prospect and Alexis is a recent arrival and favorite of Mourinho. Moving them to another position to play with Neymar would make sense, but not for Martial, who has already missed out on the World Cup due to lack of playing time.

Pro: Experience and Passion

Neymar has taken some heavy criticism for his time at PSG. Fighting with teammates on and off the pitch, accusations of selfishness, and a disappointing exit in the Champions League Round of 16 (Something United fans know all about).

However, this has only been one difficult season in a career that has been otherwise remarkable for a player his age. Maybe, just maybe, he’s realized he joined a rich club in a poor league that cannot possibly offer him what he needs to cement his legacy as a great player.

At 26, Neymar has already won trophies in 3 countries (Brazil, Spain, and France). He’s won 3 league titles, 6 domestic cup competitions, and both the Copa Libertadores and the Champions League. He also has more Champions League experience than anyone in United’s current side, and they could use a bit of that if they want to get past their embarrassing loss to Sevilla and make progress further into the competition for the first time since David Moyes (Yes, you read that right). Neymar is a winner, and he’s a player driven by his passion for the game, he just needs to be somewhere that drives his passion.

Many people don’t see it, but Neymar is an incredibly passionate player. He’s already been the face of two clubs, suffered and accomplished on the biggest stages, and overcome serious obstacles on and off the pitch to become one of the biggest names in football.

Nothing demonstrates Neymar’s passion more than his international career for Brazil. He has carried the hopes and dreams of one of the most successful footballing nations in history on his shoulders for the last few years. He even played in the 2016 Olympics to deliver gold for his home nation after the 2014 World Cup failure, an accomplishment that brought him to tears when he scored the winner in the shootout. We’ll never know what could have been if he and Thiago Silva hadn’t missed the World Cup semi-final nightmare, but it does appear that the 2018 edition of Brazil is looking to make amends.

Neymar has yet to find a club where he feels the same pride and motivation as he does for Brazil simply by putting on the uniform. Barcelona came close, where he achieved an historic treble alongside Lionel Messi and co. in 2015, but he was still in Messi’s shadow.

He left the comfort of the Nou Camp to find a stage of his own.

Why not try the Theatre of Dreams?

Neymar is no doubt a talented player, and he could be a superstar at Manchester United for years to come. However there is an enormous risk that he won’t be worth the immense financial commitment, as evidenced by his seemingly short stay at PSG.

Nothing is certain yet, and he may not even leave France this summer, but he’s a talent worth considering for Ed Woodward and Mourinho, who have yet to meet the massive fan expectations. Neymar is a prolific, accomplished, and established player. Old Trafford hasn’t seen that calibre of player deliver for United in some time.