Transfer News: Could Neymar Really Leave Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain?

If it ends this summer, well, it wasn't supposed to end this way.

Neymar da Silva Santos Junior was bought by Barcelona from Santos in his native Brazil in the summer of 2013 as the project to eventually usurp Lionel Messi.

Sure, Neymar has always been quite different from Messi. Taller, spindlier, and higher-profile in the media. But no less talented at a raw level. And the plan has worked, to a great extent. Neymar, Messi and Luis Suarez, the Uruguayan central fork of a South American trident at Camp Nou, have formed one of the most fearsome attacks in European football history. Messi drifting, Neymar cutting in from the right, Suarez a mobile, consistently elusive figure up front. Barcelona went from the ideal of a collective to M.S.N. and assorted others, and won the 2015 Champions League in a season in which its three prongs combined for 122 goals in all competitions.

What use is a fork, though, if one of the prongs snaps? On Tuesday, Esporte Interativo in Brazil reported that Neymar had "accepted" an offer from Paris Saint-Germain to leave Barcelona.

The report quotes the kind of money that makes even those within football shift a little uncomfortably in their plush leather boardroom chairs. If P.S.G. wants Neymar in the French capital next season it will have to pay a release clause of £195 million.

P.S.G. reacted to Esporte's exclusive on Tuesday by telling L'Equipe that Neymar's price remains too high for them to consider acquiring him. It's tricky, though, not to recall the events of March 8 2017 when P.S.G. contrived one of the most startling chokes in Champions League history, hurling a 4-0 quarterfinal first-leg lead against Barcelona into the sky above the Camp Nou with amateur abandon.

Neymar scored twice that night, including a perfect free kick on 88 minutes, as Barcelona left P.S.G.'s Champions League dream in ribbons once again. The club's Qatari owners may feel revenge is best served by laying on a £195 million red carpet for the man who not so long ago helped to wound them.

On Wednesday, Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu told BBC Sport that Neymar would not be leaving Barcelona. And he did sign a new contract in October 2016. But Messi signed his own new deal until 2021 this July. Tim Vickery, the BBC's South American football expert, has suggested that Neymar may not be happy to live in Messi's shadow for much longer.

At P.S.G., he would be the undisputed star attraction, the Messi of Paris with all the pressure and expectation and riches that implies. Maybe Barcelona's famous trident won't break this summer. But it's bending a little on the left-hand side, and perhaps there's no perfect repair job this time around.