FC Barcelona’s former director of football has revealed how his attempts to re-sign Neymar in 2019 were overlooked.
Despite his best attempts, Eric Abidal couldn’t convince the previous Barcelona board to re-sign Neymar in the summer of 2019 before Antoine Griezmann’s arrival.
The Frenchman served as the club’s director of football from June 2018 until his dismissal last August. As prophesied by the recently re-elected president Joan Laporta, Abidal struggled to make an impact. His advice on matters, such as a plea to not hand former manager Ernesto Valverde a new contract or to appoint Mauricio Pochettino as the Spaniard’s replacement, fell on deaf ears. He had no voice under the previous board.
For Abidal, the Neymar case was a typical example of how former president Josep Maria Bartomeu and his board constantly overlooked him.
"Neymar will play with Messi again, but in Barcelona."
Neymar's former agent says so 👀 pic.twitter.com/UfD9pcUZOp
— Goal (@goal) March 20, 2021
An unfortunate mix of egos and politics took precedence over football matters. And as Neymar was in a legal dispute with Barcelona over unpaid bonuses over an old contract in 2019, Bartomeu opted to sign Griezmann from Atletico Madrid instead.
The €120m spent on signing Griezmann ended Abidal’s hopes of bringing Neymar back from Paris Saint-Germain.
“Ten days before the end of the transfer window, I went to Paris to talk with Leonardo (PSG’s sporting director) and I was with my CEO, and we were talking about Neymar,” Abidal told The Telegraph.
“I think if the CEO goes to Paris Saint-Germain, it’s because we can sign him. If we didn’t sign Griezmann before, I think 100 per cent we could have re-signed Neymar because what we needed was a winger and when Neymar was in Barcelona, he was amazing.
“This is not about which player is better, it was what I thought was the position we needed at the time. The team needed a real winger. The president decided to sign Griezmann.
“One of the arguments against Neymar was that he had a court case against the club, so it’s not easy. They said he would have to stop the court process if he wanted to come back.
“That wasn’t my problem because I was not at the club when that dispute happened. In my view, I could sign the player, but it didn’t happen.”
Hristo Stoichkov: "Barça always play with 10 men when Griezmann is on the pitch. If they want to do something long term, they have to sell Griezmann. Braithwaite and Trincao are there. What is he doing?"
— TUDN pic.twitter.com/4ykoPA7qNa
— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) March 11, 2021