Financial Fair play stopped Neymar from returning to Barcelona before Lionel Messi joined him at PSG

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The president of FC Barcelona, Joan Laporta, has revealed that the club wanted to bring Neymar back to the Spanish club but the financial fair play rule made it impossible.

Recall that Neymar played alongside Lionel Messi at FC Barcelona between 2013 and 2017 after the Spanish club signed him from Brazilian club Santos for a transfer fee worth €88.20 million.

Laporta said Neymar was keen to return to Barcelona based on the conversations they had and the club was ready for the deal but the fact that the club was spending more than their revenue did not permit the deal to scale through.

The financial fair play rule was introduced by FIFA and adopted by major football bodies to safeguard the expenditure of clubs. It discourages clubs from spending more than their revenues especially on the wages of players.

Recall that when football was halted in mid-March 2020 due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, the revenue of most clubs in Europe dropped drastically. This was so because football was on hold for over three months while they kept paying footballers and staff fat salaries.

When football resumed in June 2020, major leagues in Europe resumed behind closed doors which meant that they could not generate revenue from match day activities.

A club like FC Barcelona who have been very ambitious in their spending in the last couple of years were one of the worst-hit clubs in Europe. Before the end of the 2020-2021 season, the Spanish giants had already breached the financial fair play rule.

The short time way the club could fall in line with the financial fair play rule was to encourage their players to accept a pay cut and sell unused players to save cost.

In the midst of this, they were already over £1 billion in debt which left them with no choice but to beg their players to accept pay cuts. Some of them did after the 2020-2021 season including Lionel Messi. But that was not enough to balance the club’s books.

Hence, Barcelona did not only fail in renewing the contract of Lionel Messi which expired on June 30, 2021, but they also failed to bring Neymar back to the club, thanks to the financial fair play rule.

Lionel Messi and Neymar training at PSG.

The consequence of that was that Lionel Messi joined Paris Saint Germain for free after over 17 years at the club. He and Neymar reunited in Paris for the first time since 2017 after the 29-year-old Brazilian winger left the club for PSG for a world record transfer fee worth €222 million.

“We tried to sign Neymar. From the conversations that we had, bringing him here seemed like an attractive proposition and he was keen to come,” Laporta told Esport3.

“We interpreted fair play differently, but based on the way [Javier] Tebas [LaLiga president] interprets it, there was no point in making that offer.”

Lionel Messi is currently on international duties with Argentina while Neymar is currently with Brazil. The two friends are expected back at PSG before Saturday, September 11. All things being equal, the two football stars might play for PSG against Clermont Foot at 16:00 on the said date.