PSG is circling, allegedly, and the rumors won’t stop, allegedly, as all eyes are focused on Neymar. Will he stay or will he go?
People have gone so far as to speculate about what the fact that he was the next to last player off the plane means, body language and facial expressions.
The latest, of course, is that there is no latest. The original rumor began with a Brazilian journalist who many people sideeye. Them one outlet picked it up, then another. And we’re off to the races. Unai Emery said that Neymar is in the “top 5 or 6” players in the game, and that of course PSG would need a talent such as that.
A great many culers are embracing the potential sale, and throwing around various names, as if replacing the second-best player in world football will be easy.
The biggest grumble, it seems, is that Barça has set Neymar’s buyout clause so “low.” There is an excellent piece on Spanish football buyout clauses here. But the basic reason that Neymar’s clause is not “low” is that his transfer would probably run something around a half-billion Euros if the price were met.
This is, of course, because in Spanish football the player has to, in effect, buy out his own contract, which means the transaction is subject to Spanish taxes, etc. (BTW, no player has ever taken a club to court yet for an extravagant buyout clause, but don’t be shocked if it happens in the future.) A 222m clause should, in theory, make a player non-transferable. But something has happened in football, or a number of things, that will soon make the sport fiscally untenable.
A Yahoo Sports piece on the Neymar rumor said that after the PSG loss to Barça Qatar gave the club 220m to spend on transfers, plus whatever could be raised from sales. If true, think about that for a second. Manchester City once had an eye-goggling transfer summer of 120m. “Normal” transfer summers for big clubs will be around 100m. A 220m kitty is stupefying, which leads to the biggest change in world football: petroteams.
PSG, despite its Parisian roots, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Qatar and the efforts that country is making to build buzz up to its World Cup. Qatar has money, atop money, atop money. 220m is nothing to a petrodollar rich sovereign nation, which changes everything.
When the Verratti rumors popped up, a few of us said they were nonsense because PSG don’t ever have to sell a player in order to raise funds. Debt doesn’t matter, salaries don’t matter. They can always get more money from an inexhaustible kitty. Neymar’s rumored salary is 30m AFTER taxes. That would be double what he makes at Barça, for those keeping track. PSG is also negotiating with Verratti for a contract extension, even though the player just signed one last summer.
For a petroclub such as PSG, no transfer is out of the question. Messi’s fee is 350 million or so. A pittance for PSG. So when a club puts a 222m price tag on a player such as Neymar, it should, in a normal world, make him untransferable.
It could well be argued that Florentino Perez had foresight when he slapped a billion Euro clause on Ronaldo. At the time, people laughed, pointing to Messi’s clause as being something more like “reality,” because who the hell could swing a (in the case of Messi) almost billion-dollar transfer? But the rules have changed.
Even Premier League teams such as City and United, flush with TV contract cash, were rumored to have talked to Neymar. But they wanted to get the price down to something “sensible,” say under 150m.
Money has changed the game to an extent that thinking people fear for its future as players change hands for astonishing sums. Because Barça is a traditional club that relies on sponsorships and other revenue forms for its money, the day is fast approaching where the club will be limited, where it won’t, fiscally, be considered a big club. That will be the province of the petro clubs and the sugar daddy clubs, whose owners can call upon deep pockets to make the kinds of transfers happen that make big players in effect, baubles passed among monied patrons.
Second-tier clubs such as Barça will have their pick of a second level of players. So instead of Neymar or Mbappe, they’d be chasing Douglas Costas, players whose fees will be able to be managed. And then, aside from the rare exception, the Champions League would become even more of a closed society.
PSG poached Dani Alves from City by offering him more than half again his City offer. Who wouldn’t take it? But this is putting the game itself in danger. What can a team reasonably set a clause at? Two billion? Would a player consent to such a clause, assuming that he is thinking of future mobility?
A buyout shouldn’t bind a player to a club. To my view, clauses are almost useless because if a player wants to leave, and I mean really wants to leave, would a high clause stop that and would a club want to stop that? Let’s say Verratti had been hell bent on making rumor reality. What could he have done? Refused to play for PSG? Talked and talked to press outlets to make his dissatisfaction clear? Tanked it on the pitch?
An unhappy player is toxic. A team should want him gone as quickly as possible. Supporters say, “That’s fine, but make someone pay for it.” That’s fair, but what is a fair valuation for a player? Neymar’s clause is more than two times his original transfer fee. Should a clause, simply enough, be the full value of a player’s contract including wages? Or is a clause psychological, as in, “We love you THIIIIIS much!”
Look at Thiago Alcantara. Had the club played him more, his clause would have jumped from 25m to 60m. But when Pep Guardiola came calling, what would have happened? Would the player have shrugged and said, “But my fee,” and resigned himself to continuing to wait for Xavi and Iniesta to retire? Or would Mazinho have started rumblings? A club should never want to keep an unhappy player, no matter who they are.
If Neymar wants to go chase money at PSG, good riddance. The romantic in me doesn’t want a player who doesn’t want to be at Barça. When new signing Nelson Semedo was asked about his decision, he said, once he heard that the Barça rumor was real, he was done. There was no other club. Same with Umtiti.
Many argued when I suggested that Neymar wasn’t going to be a Barça lifer, that at some point he would want to run his own team, something that was going to be impossible as long as Messi was in the house. My initial estimate was three seasons. Happily, he has made a liar out of me. But he’s 25, and understands that if he is going to make a move, assuming there is a shard of veracity to a rumor, now is the perfect time, and for double his salary. And if he wants to do that, good riddance.
Yet in the big picture, football has a money problem and there doesn’t seem to be a solution. There is no structure set up to control a club such as PSG, because a team being a subsidiary of a cash-rich sovereign nation has never before happened. What do you do when you put a rule such as FFP into place, but a club doesn’t care? Fines? Sure. Here ya go. Accounting tricks can shift sums around, sponsorships can be raised. PSG is sponsored by the Qatar Tourism Authority, whatever that is. At present, the value of that fee is somewhere around 300m Euros per season, but the cash pot is in fact bottomless.
Combine that with the Premiership enjoying the proceeds of a bumper new TV deal and paying absurd sums for players whose talent don’t argue for high prices, and it’s clear that there is a money race going on, one that can only lead to the bottom. What happens to PSG when the World Cup comes, and Qatar is done with its plaything? Recall the debacle at Malaga when its sugar daddy decided to pull up stakes. BeIN Sports? The programs and teams that lured Xavi to Qatar?
The club would have a roster of high-priced, high-salaried players who no club could afford. Then what? What next as teams break banks and get loans to buy players that might at least give them a reasonable shot at keeping up with the Joneses. Clubs start going bankrupt and soon, football is a mess.