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The Kings of Europe welcome the Happy Prince

In a piece published in El Pais today called “Neymar Breaks the Rules of Professionalism“, Diego Torres recounts the story of Neymar inviting Javier Mascherano to his mansion in Castelldefels some years ago.

The Argentine was convinced that Neymar wanted to speak in private, and so he was surprised when the door was opened and he was greeted with the sight of multitudes of people – friends, acquaintances, hangers on. It became clear to Mascherano that not only were all these people living at the Brazilian’s house, but they were perfectly relaxed. At home. Living a life of pure exaltation.

“If you live like this every day” the Argentine warned, “your career will be cut short.”

A Prince in Paris

According to Torres, the Brazilian hasn’t exactly heeded the warning. He paints a picture of Neymar as a kind of 18th century French Prince in Paris. Creating a new Versailles. Living without rules. Both on the pitch and off it.

The opulence of the Brazilian’s birthday last week was well documented. Radio shows back in Spain commented on the vulgarity of it all.

And this week Neymar is back in Spain. At the club that many expect him to join one day.

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In a piece in the Guardian a few weeks ago, Barney Ronay touched on the idea that there is a hint of paranoia in Paris that Neymar sees PSG as a stepping stone from Catalonia to Madrid.

It’s something of an open secret that Madrid will move for Neymar at some point. Several articles have emerged in the Madrid sports papers with headlines like “Operation Neymar”.

The Brazilian himself has apparently made noises to ex-teammates about missing Spain and the competitiveness of La Liga.

The main stumbling block to any move is financial, but it isn’t just about money. Apparently there are people high up at the Bernabéu who don’t trust those who the Brazilian associates himself with. Not least his father.

Which brings us back to the Diego Torres piece. It concludes with the incredulous reaction of Neymar’s agent, Wagner Ribeiro, upon hearing a journalist ask him if he could imagine the Brazilian at Madrid next season.

¡Qué va!

What are you talking about?

“He already knows what a big club is like. Besides, where else would allow him to live like he does in Paris?”

It’s a fair point. Neymar is currently given complete freedom in the French capital. His teammates at PSG more or less accept that there are different rules for him.

The Kings Await

It’s more difficult to imagine the powers that be in Madrid being quite as willing to accommodate his demands, as well as those of the troupe that follows him around. Especially if Cristiano Ronaldo is still there.

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Neymar’s potential move to Madrid does, however, add another sub-plot to a game that probably doesn’t need any more. The Kings of Europe welcome the Happy Prince.

Old money versus new money.

If Neymar does have his eyes fixed on a move back to Spain to wear the famous white shirt, then it’s tough to think of a better audition than tomorrow night’s game. If he inspires his team to knock out Madrid, and more or less end Los Blancos’ season three months early, “Operation Neymar” might just go into overdrive.

Mascherano’s warning upon seeing his ex-colleagues’ living arrangements a few years back is an interesting one, however. Time will tell whether the Brazilian will be able to balance the excesses that are afforded him in Paris with his long-stated desire to be the best. To take the crown that’s been worn by either Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo for the last decade.

With Neymar, it’s almost like we’re witnessing an experiment. How much can you give a person, while maintaining their drive and hunger?

The next few months, with a World Cup also looming, might just give us the answer.

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