Article 17 was drawn up in 2001 when the European Commission threatened to outlaw the transfer system within the European Union because it undermined players' freedom of movement compared to other workers. It states that players can leave their contracts “without just cause” once the three-year protection period ends.

The consequences of that are far from clear, but sources have explained to ESPN that Barca will look to the Webster transfer as a precedent this summer when, for the second year running, they try to bring Neymar back to Camp Nou after he completes the third year of his Paris Saint-Germain deal. A source at the club tells ESPN that Neymar, 28, is still “an incredible footballer and the natural heir to Lionel Messi,” adding that Barca “will do everything possible to bring him back.”

Few clubs have tried this method due to the often unspoken agreements between teams not to manipulate the system. But snatching him from PSG via article 17 would represent one of the most incredible transfers in football history, not least for the way it should shatter these “gentlemen's rules” that have seen this method go unused for over a decade. In terms of ambition, it would rank on par with Neymar's €222 million move to Paris in 2017, Luis Figo's switch from Barca to Real Madrid in 2000 and Madrid's signing of Alfredo Di Stefano under Barca's noses in the 1950s. Continue reading

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