Global Times Mobile
btn_back
China
There are people who will tell you that Neymar's reasons for leaving Barcelona run into the hundreds of thousands ­every week, but there appears to be only one that matters to him: the Ballon d'Or.

There are times he has been at Barcelona. He was there when Lionel Messi was injured in 2015, just as he was against his soon-to-be new teammates when he dragged Barcelona through in the last seven minutes of that unbelievable comeback last season.

It has been Neymar that shone brightest for Barcelona in preseason, scoring all the goals in a 2-1 win over ­Juventus and a 1-0 victory over Manchester United. But no matter what he does, he is currently destined to be second-best behind Messi at Barcelona.

Neymar could bide his time to step out of Messi's shadow at Barcelona but how long will that take? Messi only turned 30 this summer. As for Cristiano Ronaldo, the other player in the duopoly that have sewn up the Ballon d'Or for the last nine years, he is 32 but his supposed decline ended last season with a Champions League and La Liga double, making him favorite to be named Ballon d'Or for 2017.

Neymar won't break their stranglehold by waiting in the wings, figuratively or positionally speaking. He may have thrived last season from the left wing and told France Football - possibly canvassing for the Ballon d'Or - that he felt it was his best since joining Barcelona. No matter, Messi, as always, had a better one. And Ronaldo had a better one than Messi's. Despite Neymar's best performances in blue and red, there's no guarantee he will even be on the podium in January.

He wants to be on that podium, in the middle of it, and it seems he can only do that by playing centrally. He played there as a teenager at Santos - scoring in the final and named best player as they won the 2011 Copa Libertadores - and he has done so for his country. Neymar has scored 52 goals in 77 games, but for injury he may have carried the Canarinho to glory on home soil at the 2014 World Cup, which he managed at the 2016 Olympics where Neymar scored Brazil's goal and hit the winning penalty in the final.

Leaving Barcelona is a risk. Critics will point out only one player has won the Ballon d'Or while playing in France and that was Jean-Pierre Papin back in 1991. They will also point to the La Liga dominance of the podium for the last decade. Neymar might not change that but he will do his profile no harm by being the main man in Paris and wherever he ends up next - let's not worry about how much that will cost - they will build a team around him.

We constantly bemoan players for being motivated by money but, whatever he will be paid, this seems a move driven by ambition. He seemed happy at Barcelona and liked by his teammates but even though Paris is further from Sao Paulo than Barcelona, he may be closer to home.

It was a Spanish-speaking rather than Lusophone dressing room at the Camp Nou, but in Paris he finds himself with compatriots Marquinhos, Lucas ­Moura, Thiago Silva and new signing Dani Alves. There are also Portuguese winger Goncalo Guedes and Brazilian-born Italy international Thaigo Motta. Neymar is among friends.

This might get the Ballon d'Or-­winning best out of a player whose ­father is his agent and who somehow always seems to be suspended or injured every season just around his sister's birthday.

The author is a Shanghai-based freelance writer. jmawhite@gmail.com