Neymar Jr. has been at his phenomenal best this season. He has stepped up a notch from last season and taken to creating chances for his teammates as well. He is being tipped as the next Ballon d'Or winner based on current form. This has resulted in him being the fodder for rumour mills. Real Madrid and Manchester United are reportedly interested in the services of the Samba boy and, to be honest, nobody can blame them.
In his first season, many pundits rated Neymar as a burden to the side failing to meet expectations. In the second season, however, he improved drastically to become the top poacher in the team, scoring in all the knockout rounds of the UEFA Champions League. This season, especially during the absence of Lionel Messi due to injury, Neymar took upon his mentor's responsibility and hasn't looked back since.
With 21 goals and 12 assists, he is among the top goal scorers in Europe. With a rating of 8.53 the No.11 is the highest rated player in Europe. He has scored important goals throughout the season and as a result, Barca sit top of La Liga, are in the last-16 stages of the Champions League and almost through to the Copa del Rey final.
But there are other off the field issues that seem to be affecting Neymar. He himself admitted that the recent ongoing cases against him related to his transfer to Barca has affected him. As recently as this week, he was in court facing charges. There are two different cases pending, one in Brazil on tax evasion charges and another one in Spain for fraud relating to his transfer.
Among all these distractions, potential suitors are eyeing an opportunity to lure him away. Real Madrid president Florentino Perez has long been an admirer of the Brazilian starlet and has been keen on landing him since 2010. Only the Brazilian's desire to play alongside Messi prevented that from happening. It is widely reported Perez is still into the idea of Neymar donning the Royal White jersey to replace Ronaldo, whose best years have arguably already passed. But Perez continues to be frustrated as Neymar is unwilling to make the switch.
As a sort of revenge, the Madrid board has already begun to leak information to their journalists that the club are willing to make themselves an element in the investigation opened by Spain's Audiencia Nacional for alleged crimes of fraud and corruption filed against Neymar by DIS, who held 40 per cent of his rights before he moved to Barcelona.
Manchester United is reported to be the only club which has made an official bid for the player. In an unusual move, Neymar's father has confirmed to Cadena COPE that the 190 million euro offer for Neymar came from the Red Devils. It is quite logical to assume United are on the market for the next big thing in football to kick-start their march to glory once again. With dismal results, things haven't been going particularly well for the club and are understandably desperate to make a big signing.
Neymar is seen as a successor to Cristiano Ronaldo due to a lot of similarities in their early years: Quick footed, with a jaw-dropping ability to leave defenders on the ground with their wide array of skills and an impressive eye for goal. However, Neymar clearly surpasses Ronaldo if we compare their achievements at the age of 24:
Given the state of affairs at Old Trafford at present, it seems unlikely Neymar will be willing to take such a risk. After all, the Brazilian just won the treble for Barca, finished on the Ballon d'Or podium and is on course for a repeat of last year's heroics. Having said that, and although current rumours may be shrugged off without much of a thought, the No.11 may find it enticing to join the Red Devils sometime later in his career. After all, what Barca is to Spain, United are for England.
Not to be trailing to their rivals, the other half of Manchester, City are rumoured to be also on the alert. With former Barca boss Pep Guardiola agreeing to join the club next summer, the officials have decided to convince Neymar to join them and be a part of the Catalan manager's ambitious project. However, reports from the English Media may be taken with a pinch of salt. After all, in the past few days, almost all of the current Barca players have been linked to City including Messi, Luis Suarez and Sergio Busquets.
Neymar's father has claimed that his son is happy at Barcelona and the contract renewals can wait as he still has two and a half years on his contract. It is true but the board must be cautious and not take any risks.
Neymar is the heir to Messi at the Camp Nou. A few years down the line, it will be up to the Brazilian star to lead the Catalans to glory and, given the many offers he has already received, the first step to ensure that will be a renewal and pay rise -- Time for the board to take some action.