Eric Abidal wanted Neymar ahead of Antoine Griezmann in 2019

Former Barcelona director of football Eric Abidal reveals he attempted to bring Neymar back to the Nou Camp in 2019 ahead of Antoine Griezmann… as he also reveals Mauricio Pochettino was his first choice to replace Ernesto Valverde

  • Eric Abidal has given his first interview since leaving his board role at Barcelona  
  • The former France international was the director of football at the Nou Camp 
  • He has opened up on moves that he backed, but never came to fruition 

Eric Abidal has revealed how close Neymar came to rejoining Barcelona in the summer of 2019.

The Frenchman left Barcelona last year having been sacked from his role as director of football.

He has now opened up on the deals that never came to pass during his time in the hotseat, and chief among them was a sensational return to the Nou Camp for the Brazilian two years ago. 

Barcelona met with Paris Saint-Germain to discuss the potential of Neymar’s return in 2019

However, the pursuit of Antoine Griezmann – not to mention the Paris Saint-Germain winger’s ongoing legal battle with the Spanish club – scuppered a deal from coming to fruition.  

‘Ten days before the end of the transfer window, I went to Paris to talk with Leonardo (PSG’s sporting director) and I was with my CEO, and we were talking about Neymar,’ Abidal to the Telegraph. 

‘I think if the CEO goes to Paris Saint-Germain, it’s because we can sign him. If we didn’t sign Griezmann before, I think 100 per cent we could have re-signed Neymar because what we needed was a winger and when Neymar was in Barcelona he was amazing. 

Instead, the board at the Nou Camp decided to persevere with a move for Antoine Griezmann

‘This is not about which player is better, it was what I thought was the position we needed at the time. The team needed a real winger. The president decided to sign Griezmann.

‘One of the arguments against Neymar was that he had a court case against the club, so it’s not easy. They said he would have to stop the court process if he wanted to come back. 

‘That wasn’t my problem because I was not at the club when that dispute happened. In my view, I could sign the player, but it didn’t happen.’ 

Abidal was also charged with overseeing appointments off the field, too and wanted to actively pursue Mauricio Pochettino when Ernesto Valverde left the Nou Camp last year.

Once again, however, the Frenchman found himself outvoted by the board, with politics playing a large part due to his history with rivals Espanyol.

Eric Abidal also revealed that Mauricio Pochettino was his first choice to take charge in 2020

‘On my list was Mauricio Pochettino, Quique Setien, Max Allegri and Xavi Hernandez. Quique was appointed, but my first option was Pochettino,’ he recalled.

‘I knew there was a political problem because I gave my argument to the board and some answers were focused on Espanyol and not on the technical part.

‘You don’t have to mix politics with professional decisions, but Barcelona is a unique club with a large board and many people making the decisions.’

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