Soccer will never be the same again after Brazilian forward Neymar transferred from Barcelona to Paris St. Germain (PSG). He was trying to become the best player in the world and didn’t like living in the shadow of Lionel Messi. Neymar moved to PSG to be the big fish in a small pond for a world-record transfer fee, and it has changed soccer forever. This is how.
Being overshadowed again
Neymar wanted to get out from the shadow of Lionel Messi and to do that he needed to wipe the slate clean. The Brazilian star had a release clause in his contract of $236million. No soccer player had ever gone for that price before, and it was only really there just to put other clubs off from trying to sign him.
PSG had the cash thanks to their super-rich owners, and the fee was agreed. Things were looking up for Neymar until PSG signed another superstar the same month, young French striker Kylian Mbappe for $216 million. The striker has won the World Cup and is arguably the hottest property in soccer right now.
Neymar has gone from playing in the shadow of arguably the greatest player of all time in Messi, to being in the shadow of the great hope for French soccer, Mbappe. He’s not exactly washed up as a player and belongs in the top five or ten players in the world, but Neymar’s move hasn’t been the huge success he wanted.
Fees for players
The one thing you can’t ignore from the Neymar deal is how much money PSG spent to get their man. They were taking a risk because players are only one injury away from being a hugely unsuccessful investment. When people knew that clubs were willing to spend over $200 million on just one player, suddenly the price for every other soccer player in the world went up.
Neymar’s transfer began an era of huge amounts of money being splashed on players. Soccer clubs weren’t exactly shy about spending money on players before Neymar was transferred, but this was a whole new level. Before Neymar made his way to PSG, Paul Pogba was the most expensive transfer in the world at $115.5 million, just one year earlier.
Trying to keep up
World record transfer fees have almost exclusively been for players who were undoubtedly at the top of their sport. After Neymar transferred to PSG suddenly fees for good players were now on the same level as world record fees just a few years prior. Players like Romelu Lukaku and Alvaro Morate were heading to Premier League teams for close to $100 million.
This is far beyond their value in a normal market, but now the precedent had been set, clubs could ask for extortionate fees. The problem, even for the selling team, was that average players were now costing so much money that getting a huge transfer fee for a player didn’t help.
Instead of being able to overhaul their entire roster with the funds raised by selling one player, teams could only realistically get in one or two players max. In order to keep up with the top clubs, smaller teams were going to have to break their own transfer records.
It’s not just about paying money for your soccer star to perform on the field. PSG knew that in signing Neymar to their team, they could benefit from shirt sales, and their existing relationship with Nike. The American athletics brand is the manufacturer of PSG’s jerseys.
Neymar is one of the biggest soccer stars in the world and associating his name with PSG only boosts the club’s profile in the global game. Sure PSG spent over $200 million each on both Neymar and Mbappe, but the money they make back through additional sales offsets some of that initial cost.
The money spent on soccer players isn’t all about the transfer of Neymar to PSG. For instance, teams in the Premier League have been able to benefit from record levels of prize money that they can then invest further in their playing squads. That prize money has come after the Premier League sold broadcasting rights to the highest bidder. Even the team who finishes bottom of the Premier League is guaranteed to make over $100 million in a season.
Fees for players only seem to be rising, and even teams who historically were not as rich are now making huge bids for players. Fulham were promoted to the Premier League for the 2018/19 season and had to spend over $180 million to make their squad competitive. They spent that money but were still one of the worst teams in the league and were relegated straight away.
There is a risk that staying in the big league is going to be harder and harder because smaller teams don’t have the money to compete. With fees only likely to get larger in the future, there could come a time when the top leagues are only filled with super rich teams.
Neymar’s transfer to PSG has changed everything in soccer. There is more money than ever, and even players in the last year of their contracts are being sold for huge amounts. Eden Hazard had just one year left on his Chelsea deal when he signed for Real Madrid for a reported $114 million. All Madrid had to do was wait one year, and they could have had him for free.