Hoonhout: Neymar’s record-breaking transfer raises concerning questions
Tobias Hoonhout | Thursday, August 24, 2017
To put it frankly, the spending this summer transfer market has been absurd.
Flush with money from mega-broadcasting deals, clubs around the world have been smashing their transfer records on players who only a few years ago would have been a fraction of the cost they are today. The Premier League has already set a new transfer spending record of 1.185 billion pounds spent by clubs this summer. With nine days still left in the transfer window.
But out of all the insanity, Neymar’s transfer from Barcelona to P.S.G. has to take the cake as the craziest deal in soccer history, if not in all of professional sports.
For starters, there’s the price tag. When it is all said and done, Neymar is costing P.S.G. more than $500 million in fees and wages. $500 million.
The fact that one player could cost a club over half a billion dollars is mind boggling. Even to say a talent like Neymar, who is arguably the future face of soccer as Ronaldo and Messi fade into history, is worth more than double the previous transfer record—the 89 million pounds Manchester United paid for Paul Pogba last season—pushes the envelope of rationality.
And there’s the seemingly unbelievable fact that for once, it was Barcelona on the short end of the stick. For when it comes to soccer clubs, there is arguably none with more power and prestige than Barcelona.
The Catalan club is known as a club that acquires players it wants to buy, not a club that loses players it wants to keep. And while signs point to Neymar desiring to be the face of a club after living in Leo Messi’s shadow for the last several seasons, the very fact that Barcelona was helpless to keep Neymar after P.S.G. triggered his seemingly untouchable release clause is a major blow to one of the traditional powerhouses in world soccer.
But the fallout has only just started. Besides the fact that Barcelona was convincingly beaten in the Spanish Supercopa by bitter rivals Real Madrid, the club has also failed to find a replacement to fill the huge void left by the Brazilian, with efforts for Liverpool’s Coutinho and Dortmund’s Ousmane Dembele so far coming up empty. And if it couldn’t get worse, the comments from long-time captain and club legend Andres Iniesta about the board’s lack of concern for his contributions over the years is the nail in the coffin that there are serious problems ahead for Barcelona.
Most insane of all, however, is the fact that P.S.G. had the funds to pull off such a coup. When Qatari Sports Investors, a fund owned by nation of Qatar, first invested in the club in 2011, there were no doubts that there would be money behind the club; the only question was how much. And even though the club was ranked outside the top five of the world’s richest soccer teams, the fact that they were able to pull off far and away the largest deal in history makes one wonder if institutions like Q.S.I. should even exist.
When nations start providing the fiscal muscle for sports teams, serious questions about corruption are bound to surface. Besides the fact that Qatar controversially was selected to host the 2022 World Cup, the infusion of oil money into P.S.G., leading to the domination of the French league and this incredible transfer, really makes me wonder if this move will end up being good for the soccer world.
While I have no doubts that Neymar will flourish, and his incredible home debut this past Sunday reinforces that, his astronomical price tag sets a dangerous precedent. With spending reaches higher and higher levels, can the system sustain itself, or will the bubble burst?
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.