Despite strong links with the Spanish giants, Chelsea may still have a chance of securing the Brazilian's signature.
Roman Abramovich is used to getting what he wants. In the case of Brazilian forward Neymar, despite a fruitless pursuit thus far, he shouldn’t give up just yet.
Of all the names regularly linked with Chelsea, Neymar’s has been the most constant.
Back in the summer of 2010, then-Blues manager Carlo Ancelotti confirmed the club’s interest in the 17-year-old.
While around the same time, the player’s club Santos threatened to report the London side to Fifa for what they saw as an “unethical” approach.
Nearly three years later, Neymar remains in Brazil. And whenever there is talk of his next home, it is invariably Barcelona.
So much so that many say a deal is already done. That however long it takes for the precocious forward to make his move, when he does so it will be straight to the Nou Camp.
Reports from Spain last month suggested a deal between Santos and Barcelona had been in place for the last 18 months. A deal that secured first option on Neymar for a fee of €45million. And a deal that, should Barcelona renege, would see them pay a penalty clause of €80million.
In light of such revelations, a move to the Catalan club is surely only a matter of time.
But four things suggest there is still hope for Chelsea.
The first is that the player himself has been quoted in Brazilian football magazine Placar as saying there is no deal in place with Barcelona.
Of course that is one man’s word against another’s. But it is a word that gives hope to his other suitors.
The second is that Neymar has openly said Chelsea is one of his preferred destinations. Okay, so he also said Barcelona and Real Madrid. But a battle between three is better than a battle between many.
Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, Barcelona have Lionel Messi.
As strange as that may sound, the Argentinian and the Brazilian are very much from the same mould. On the pitch, they occupy many of the same positions.
And while fans and pundits alike have said the two would form the most devastating attack in world football, there is an alternative possibility.
And that is that one would stunt the other; that ultimately they would be played instead of rather than with each other, that the presence of Messi would prevent Neymar from playing his natural game in the same way as Alexis Sanchez is not the same player he was at Udinese.
Messi will almost certainly see out his career at Barcelona. Should Neymar join him, he will forever be in his shadow.
A move to Chelsea would maintain his leading man status. And that is surely something he has considered as he continues to ponder a move that has been talked of but not seen for years.
The final reason that a move remains possible rests heavily on the man brought in to lead Chelsea next season.
Should it be a return for Jose Mourinho, you can bet he won’t have lost his desire to do battle with his long-term Spanish adversaries.
Beating them on a football pitch is one type of success, but beating them to a player they believed to be theirs would be another.
Should Chelsea do everything they can to sign Neymar? And could they pursuade him to turn his back on the Nou Camp for Stamford Bridge?
image: © simonw92