The £198-million football debate: Why Neymar's world record transfer fee makes complete sense

Editor's note: The issue of transfer fees is debated during nearly every transfer window, with some deciding that the money on offer is far too much and others opining that it's less than a player's worth. The matter came to a head this week with news that a prominent Barcelona striker was about to seal a mega-bucks move to Paris Saint-Germain. The following article offers one point-of-view regarding the consequences of this potential transfer. To read the opposing viewpoint, click here.

Money money money money, money!

The O’Jays catchy earworm “For the love of money” wouldn’t be out of place at all if it rang through the corridors of the richest and most powerful football clubs in the world. In the European off-season, it’s all about that “lean mean green”.

The transfer window officially opened on 1 July but deals have been going through since the end of last season and the top five leagues in Europe have already spent £2.62 billion. With four weeks still left to go, this window is on track to break all existing transfer records, and then some.

If Neymar moves to PSG, he will become the most expensive player in the world. AFP

If Neymar moves to PSG, he will become the most expensive player in the world. AFP

According to FIFA, European clubs from the big five leagues accounted for £3.76 billion spent on international transfer fees in 2016. However, Neymar Jr’s reported £198 million move from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain has sent seismic shockwaves through the footballing world.

The jaw-dropping transfer fee would make the 25-year-old Brazilian the most expensive player in the world, with the French club willing to shell out more than double than what Manchester United paid for Paul Pogba’s then record-breaking signing of £89.3 million.

PSG will have to pay Neyamr’s mind-boggling buyout clause that Barcelona had put in place to deter any clubs from even considering signing the player. But PSG shocked everyone with their audacious intent to snag one of the best footballers in the world at any cost.

At first glance, the outrageous sum does induce a “Holy sh*t! Is that what they are paying for one player?” reaction but dig further into the finances of the best clubs in Europe, and the move seems logical.

While transfer fees have been exponentially rising every year, they still continue to be proportionate to what the elite clubs are earning. KPMG Football Benchmark, an internet platform for football financial data, reports that since 2007 major clubs have been prepared to spend about 20 percent of their operating revenue on a single star player signing.

Pogba’s world record £89m fee accounted for only 20 percent of United’s operating revenue. Compare that to Zinedine Zidane’s £46.6 million transfer to Real Madrid in 2001, which cost the Spanish club 54 percent of their revenue.

Over the past two decades, football has fast transformed into a global business with the clubs’ revenue driven by match day ticket sales, broadcasting deals, merchandising revenue and commercial sponsorships.

The Premier League signed a record-breaking £5.14 billion domestic broadcast deal in 2015 with Sky Sports and BT Sports that puts the English clubs way ahead of their European counterparts in terms of revenue earned through TV rights. Add to that an additional estimated £3 billion from overseas rights deals and you can see why Premier League clubs have been outspending most of Europe.

In PSG’s case, it’s their Qatari ownership that makes all the difference. They are essentially owned by the Gulf state of Qatar via a fund, Oryx Qatar Sports Investments.

To ensure that the Neymar deal is well within the UEFA Financial Fair Play rules, the club will have to bring in new commercial partners and sell a couple of their players to try and balance their books. Under FFP regulations, UEFA allows owners to spend an additional £26.85 million (€30m) of their own money over a rolling three‑year period. Having already been penalised once in 2014, the club will be willing to do anything to avoid further sanctions.

The other major factor that drives these multi-million transfer deals is the need for instant success in modern football. Gone are the days when managers were given time to patiently develop teams and nurture homegrown talent that could win titles; this is the era of short tenures and immediate results.

Club owners, most of them billionaires themselves, are making no investments in time, but only in proven superstars. This is the reason why even Pep Guardiola, considered by many as the paragon of building successful teams, has spent £210m on six players in the transfer window so far.

Clubs are willing to look for quick fixes rather than put faith in youth and the cut-throat competition for trophies has turned the transfer window into an arms race. Managers are fired at the drop of a hat and success in the transfer market has become one of the virtues that define their achievements.

PSG, especially, have been knocking hard on the door of the exclusive superelite clubs. Since 2011, when they were taken over by their Qatar owners, they have had one ultimate objective – to win the UEFA Champions League.

Their humiliating 6-5 loss to Barcelona in the Round of 16 and second-place league finish only spurred them into what seems like a drastic step, but one that could well pay dividends in the upcoming season. Ironically, Barcelona’s astonishing comeback in the Champions League match against PSG is what many are citing as the reason that finally forced Neymar into requesting a transfer.

So with enough sound logic behind PSG’s pursue of Neymar, it comes down to this – is the Brazilian forward worth £198 million?

In his four seasons at Barcelona, Neymar scored 105 goals and produced 59 assists. He was a  crucial part of the MSN trio with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez that was arguably one of the greatest attacking partnerships in the sport. He won eight titles with Barcelona, including their historic treble in 2015-16.

With age on his side, Neymar’s best years are yet to come and he could go on to become the best player of his generation. At PSG, he will have a chance to step out of Messi’s shadow and lead a team on his own. With a career-defining World Cup on the horizon, Neymar could possibly make a strong case for the Ballon d’Or if he thrives in France.

Apart from his dazzling goal-scoring abilities, PSG will also procure one of the most marketable players in Neymar. According to Forbesthe Brazilian is the 18th highest-paid sports star in the world with endorsements deals with Nike, Gillette, Panasonic and Beats by Dre. The club will look to ride his popularity to try and recoup a slice of their investment.

It’s time fans and pundits moved past romanticising the sport of football and recognise it for the mammoth money-churning business that it has become. As ridiculous as the £198 million fee initially sounds, it will help PSG land a match-winner on their hands. And if Neymar guides his potential new team to the elusive Champions League trophy, he would be worth every penny.

To read the opposing viewpoint titled 'Neymar's world record transfer fee threatens football as we know it', click here.


Published Date: Aug 03, 2017 03:57 pm | Updated Date: Aug 03, 2017 05:09 pm


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