Neymar continues to generate plenty of speculation regarding a possible return to Barcelona, and Keita Balde says he would sign the Paris Saint-Germain forward “tomorrow” if he was calling the shots at Camp Nou.
Ever since a record-breaking €222 million (£200m/$262m) transfer was completed in the summer of 2017, reports of a return to Spain have raged around a South American superstar.
Neymar enjoyed four productive seasons with Barca before the decision was taken to step out of Lionel Messi’s shadow in Catalunya and become a leading man in his own right.
Injuries have been an issue at times in France, while questions have been asked of the 28-year-old’s commitment to the PSG cause, but numerous trophies and 69 goals in 80 appearances have been savoured along the way.
There is no doubting Neymar’s ability, nor Barca’s willingness to throw open their doors again if another big-money deal could be put in place.
The reigning La Liga champions endeavoured to get an agreement over the line in 2019, only to see the reluctance of a European rival to cash in on a prized asset leave them frustrated.
Interest is expected to be rekindled at some stage, with it unclear at present when the next window will arrive, and Balde believes Barca should be doing all they can to bring a familiar face back onto their books.
The Senegal international, who spent three years in the famed La Masia academy system before going on to make his name elsewhere, is currently a domestic rival of Neymar as he turns out for Monaco.
As a Catalan native he continues to keep a close eye on events at Camp Nou and says there is one move he would prioritise above all others if he was to be handed responsibility for recruitment by the Blaugrana.
Balde told El Chiringuito: “With the ball at his feet, Neymar is unrivalled. He could play for any team. If I was the president of Barcelona, I would sign him tomorrow if I could.”
Balde severed ties with Barca in 2011, as he was taken on by Serie A giants Lazio. He made more than 130 appearances for the Rome-based club before sealing a switch to Monaco in 2017.
The 25-year-old forward had been enjoying a productive 2019-20 campaign before football shut down amid the coronavirus pandemic.
His stock has started to rise once more, having previously registered on the radar of Manchester United and Real Madrid, but he credits Barca with helping to make him the player he is today.
Balde added: “I have very good memories. I started there at nine years old and they were important years for me. What I have today, I owe much of it to La Masia and Barca.
“At Barcelona, they educate you as a human being, as a person and also as a footballer.”