Brazilian footballer Neymar’s € 222 million transfer from FC Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain was the most expensive in history this week. This shift will put pressure on football officials as it questions the effectiveness of financial fair play rules, which are designed to limit club spending.
The move could mean a shift in the balance of power among the top European clubs. Barcelona’s management hardly imagined that any of the competitors would be able to pay the seemingly astronomical amount of compensation in the Neymar contract. But PSG has financial strength thanks to its owner, Qatar Sports Investments. Now the Spanish grandee is forced to part with one of the leading players against his own will.
According to experts, the transfer reflects a change in the financial model of football, at the center of which are now superstars. According to Stefan Szymanski, author of Money and Football: A Guide to Football Economics, 30 years ago, clubs could earn money mainly from local fans. “But now teams have global reach across all forms of media. Therefore, money can be earned with the help of such world stars as Neymar, Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, says Shimanski. “Oddly enough, this transfer may even pay off someday.”
The Barcelona-based club pushed for the full compensation to make it harder for the Parisian to stick to the financial fair play that was adopted seven years ago. In 2015, the rules were revised, and now the losses for clubs over a three-year period should not exceed € 30 million. However, some expenditures, such as infrastructure and youth football development, are not included.
On Thursday, the player’s representatives arrived at the office of La Liga, the Spanish football league, to pay the full transfer fee on PSG’s behalf. La Liga did not accept the money and declined to comment on its refusal. Its president, Javier Tebas, has expressed confidence that the deal violates financial fair play. Later on Thursday, Neymar’s lawyers paid the money directly to Barcelona. The club terminated the contract with him and said that it will provide details of the deal to the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) in order to “determine the disciplinary liability that this case may entail.” PSG declined to comment.
The rules allow PSG to reflect the transfer amount on its balance sheet not all at once, but within five years for which Neymar’s contract was signed. Under its terms, the Brazilian will earn 30 million euros per year after taxes. Therefore, UEFA noted that the club has several years to increase its revenues or sell several players “for a significant amount.”
Daniel Gee, partner at the law firm Sheridans, expects PSG to increase its revenue through new commercial agreements, including the portrayal of Neymar. “These deals don’t happen often, and of course it’s a colossal amount,” Guy says. “Only a few clubs in the world can afford this in terms of costs and potential revenues, and PSG is one of them.”
PSG management also hopes that Neymar will help the club succeed in the UEFA Champions League. Last season, the Parisian club lost just to Barcelona in the round of 16, missing out on a four-goal lead. Neymar then scored two goals in the final minutes. “To be successful, you need to win. In football, this motivation usually takes precedence over any commercial calculation, ”says Szymanski.
Translated by Alexey Nevelsky