In Depth

Neymar, PSG and Barcelona: How transfer rumours really work

Where did the story that Paris Saint-Germain were to pay £195m for the striker actually come from?

Soccer superstar Neymar is at the centre of a media storm amid reports he is leaving Barcelona to join French side Paris Saint-Germain for a world record fee of £195m.

The claims generated headlines and opinion pieces across the world. But is there any substance to them?

The Daily Mail reported on Wednesday that Neymar had "accepted Paris Saint-Germain's offer after the French club triggered his £195m release clause".

However, there was an important caveat to the story: "according to reports in Brazil".

The Mail linked to the website of Esporto Interativo, which claims PSG were "quite willing" to pay the mammoth fee and would "make the official announcement in two weeks".

Despite headlining its report as an exclusive, Esporto Interativio says "rumors had already surfaced" earlier in the week about the deal and admitted that Spanish media had been saying the striker was unhappy in Barcelona and PSG were willing to pay the fee.

That appears to be a reference to a report in Spanish newspaper Sport claiming Neymar was "uncomfortable" at the Camp Nou.

The story contains little new information and has no attributed sources, but suggests Neymar's advisers were telling him to "make his stay at Barcelona temporary".

It also claims the striker wants to win the Ballon d'Or, awarded to the world's best player, but fears he will forever be in the shadow of team-mate Lionel Messi. With that in mind, he has "had time to reflect" while on holiday and "think about the teams that are looking for new world icons - Man City, Man United, PSG and even Madrid".

However, rather than provide concrete evidence of a move, the report rakes over the ashes of other near misses involving Neymar, recalling, for example, how he admitted speaking to PSG about a transfer in September 2016.

But could the real source of the story be a piece in rival Spanish sport paper AS on 17 July, the previous day, that declares: "Neymar’s father will travel to Paris this week to meet Nasser Al-Khelaifi, the President of PSG, to discuss a transfer for the Brazilian winger"?

Again there is no source to back up the claim, but it provides a reason for the speculation.

"Barcelona's strong interest in Marco Verratti, PSG's Italian midfielder, has facilitated the contact between Neymar's representatives and Paris Saint Germain," continues the report.

That in turn links back to reports in French newspaper L'Equipe much earlier in the month claiming Verratti was still eager to move to the Catalan side, despite issuing an apology to PSG for an earlier flirtation with them.

Looking further back, on 7 July, ESPN reported on Barcelona's determination to land Verratti and claimed dirty tricks on both sides.

Could the latest Neymar rumours simply be the result of Chinese whispers and an ongoing feud between two of Europe's richest clubs?

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