Opinion: Neymar isn't showing a lack of ambition by moving to PSG, but breaking a tiresome mould

The Brazilian boy wonder is coming under flak for a perceived lack of ambition, but his transfer to PSG could change his career for the better

Opinion: Neymar isn't showing a lack of ambition by moving to PSG, but breaking a tiresome mould
Neymar is finally stepping out of the shadows and lighting his own path | Photo: NurPhoto/Getty Images

With the news of Neymar's bank-breaking move to Paris Saint-Germain seemingly ready to be confirmed in the very near future, a lot of people have been talking about what this means for the player's career.

The overwhelming consensus seems to be that he is showing a lack of ambition by taking a step down from what is arguably the world's finest football club.

Former Barcelona striker Gary Lineker tweeted that "there is only one direction to go from Barcelona and that's backwards"

It is undeniable that PSG is anything other than a downgrade as a club when compared to Barça, and it would be naive to suggest that the move would be happening if not for the eye-watering sums of money involved.

But for a player who, at the age of 25, has already won everything that is available to be won in Spain, does this really show a lack of ambition on his front? Or, really, does it actually show that he is willing to take a step down to experience something new, and achieve something truly notable?

'But Ligue Un is rubbish'

One of the points that has been made countless times on social media in the last few days is that Ligue Un isn't a competitive league; that it will be easy for Neymar.

On the one hand, it should be said that PSG aren't going into the new season as champions, having been beaten to the title last season by a swashbuckling young AS Monaco side.

And, on the other, it is probably fair to say that La Liga isn't exactly the place to go for a competitive league environment either. That if Neymar wanted to be pushed to his limits, playing in a league with three top teams rather than two isn't really that much of an improvement.

The accepted norm that Barcelona and Real Madrid is the pinnacle of the world game, that players spend their life striving to reach these heights and anything else is a backwards step, that playing out your entire career at the Camp Nou is the best thing footballer can do with their career, is a tiresome one. Neymar will do well to do something different.

'But he has the MSN'

It has also been said that the allure of playing in potentially the greatest front three of all time - Messi, Suárez, Neymar - should be enough of an allure to keep him in Catalonia.

The issue with that argument is that this is something that Neymar has already done, and has done so for a few years now. They've broken goalscoring records, won every trophy available to them and brought the initials 'MSN' back from the dead.

What would be the motivation for Neymar to continue doing this? Messi, Suárez, Neymar are in the history books and there is little he can do to add to that.

To stay in Barcelona safe in the knowledge that you have the best footballer of all time and probably the best striker in world football either side of you would be the easy option, the comfortable one. 

'But he can be Messi's successor'

There is also the feeling that at last, Neymar will get to be the main main at a major European club, as he deserves.

Johan Cruyff likened it to having two captains on one ship when he signed from Santos in 2013, but in reality Neymar was more like the sous-chef in a high-end restaurant. An enviable position indeed, but it was clear who was number one.

Neymar was bought for two main reasons; to facilitate Lionel Messi, and eventually to replace him.

As Messi has altered his role in the past few seasons, Neymar has done an admirable job complementing his new style and managing to accentuate his countless strengths and abilities, bringing the best out of him for the viewing pleasure of fans all around the globe.

And, given his incredible talent, it seems that he is indeed one of a select handful of forwards who could potentially make a fist of filling Messi's boots once he leaves the Camp Nou, presumably at the end of his career.

What may trouble Neymar here is that this means his career would always be framed in reference to Messi's, as teammate and successor. For the finest Brazilian player of his generation, this isn't enough - he must write the story of his own career, not merely feature in the index of somebody else's.

'But he'll be less likely to win the Champions League'

And now, at PSG, Neymar has the chance to do something truly historic. Given the amount of money being poured into the club, remarkable would probably be the wrong word - but he could become the talisman of the first PSG side to ever lift the Champions League.

If he stays at Barcelona, there's nothing he could really achieve that would be that momentous, as it has all been done before. Winning another Champions League trophy at Barça would be nice, obviously, but taking the trophy to the French capital for the first time would be a unique achievement. 

Consider that Zlatan Ibrahimović left the City of Lights with the status as some sort of God among mortals for his achievements, and that these achievements included a failure to achieve anything of note in Europe - if Neymar went to PSG and won their first Champions League, he would surely be their greatest ever player.

Better than Zlatan, better than Pauleta, better than George Weah, better too than Ronaldinho

The very same Ronaldinho, of course, who was idolised by Brazilians possibly as much as any player since Pelé. The same Ronaldinho who played two seasons in Paris, when Neymar was a schoolboy dreaming of one day doing as he did - playing football in front of millions in some of the world's finest cities.

A human decision by a human being

That is a point worth making, as well. Footballers exist outside of football. They have lives and ambitions and dreams beyond scoring goals in a certain shirt, and though Barcelona is a sensational city, the same has to be said of Paris.

If Crystal Palace and West Ham can manage to sell London as enough of a draw to bring in players like Yohan Cabaye and Javier Hernández, Paris must be a draw in itself to any footballer and their family.

Football is a short career and Neymar is totally within his right to spend this time, while in the prime of his life, experiencing different cultures and cities through it - France is, in this regard, a step outside of his comfort zone, but one which will excite him. Perhaps Munich, London, or Milan could be next.

In all, there is a fairly convincing argument to say that Neymar is taking not a brave step - he will be far and away the finest player in the league and making the GDP of a small country while doing it - but not a bad one either.

He is being given the opportunity to make more money than any footballer before him, step out of the shadow of another player, and do something that nobody else has managed to achieve. It's difficult to begrudge him grabbing that opportunity with both hands.

And if, as it seems, PSG are to be at the forefront of a New World Order of elite European clubs... well, you'd rather be the man leading the charge than standing in its way, wouldn't you?

Football