Rumours are rife that Neymar’s association with Barcelona is nearing an end.
The Brazilian’s season, as wonderful as it has been on the field, has been rather chaotic off it, with a lingering tax scandal causing an unwanted disruption.
And Spanish football expert Guillem Balague delivered good news and bad news for Barcelona fans when he was asked to provide an update on the 24-year-old’s future.
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Neymar has two years remaining on his current deal but even Barcelona will admit that the forward deserves an increase in his £77,000-per-week wages.
The Brazil captain was voted the world’s third-best player in January. Yet Newcastle midfielder Jonjo Shelvey earns more than him.
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While a contract renewal has been agreed, Neymar is yet to sign.
As Balague explained in his Q&A with Sky Sports on Friday: “Neymar and Barcelona have negotiated a renewal of his contract. But it has not been announced and has not been signed.
“Neymar would prefer to stay but he has to leave his options open because Barcelona have not got the finances to keep all the big names in the squad unless they bring a lot of revenue in, which of course, is still possible.”
The Catalan giants are yet to agree a sponsorship deal for next season, which has impacted their spending plans. Sergio Busquets is another player who is eagerly awaiting a contract extension.
Neymar's lifestyle is a concern
Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia reported last month that Neymar’s hectic schedule is a major concern for Barca chiefs.
The article claims Neymar, one of the most marketable people not just in football but in pop culture, leads a lifestyle that includes “trips, parties, inadvisable schedules, and recording adverts.”
Balague offered support to La Vanguardia’s report.
He added: “I don't think everybody in the camp is impressed on the way he lives his life outside football, which some blame partly for his poor form in the last few months of the season.”
The report stemmed from Neymar’s bizarre antics on the pitch. In last month’s defeat to Valencia, he slapped Antonio Barragan at full-time and is accused by Marca of throwing a water bottle at the defender in the tunnel.
He also went on a five-game scoreless run that coincided with Barcelona’s exit from the Champions League and unnerving stumble in La Liga.
Puyol to the rescue
When the critics unleashed their scathing assessments, Neymar’s former teammate Carles Puyol quickly came to his support.
“You cannot always be at the highest level,” the ex-Barca defender said, per the Daily Mail.
“Neymar is still young and he is very professional. We must accept that he cannot always perform at an impressive level. But he will put in great performances again.
“A bad game for Neymar can still be a good game because he still does spectacular things.”
Barcelona know that only too well. Hence the reason why fans have a right to be concerned at his contract situation.