Neymar to PSG - why the most expensive transfer in football history is the bargain of the summer

The Brazilian is in the prime of his career at the top of his game and is affordable, by the standards of the transfer market this summer at least

Ed Malyon
Wednesday 02 August 2017 10:30
€222m in this market is a steal for a player of Neymar's talent and commercial value
€222m in this market is a steal for a player of Neymar's talent and commercial value

If one of the main themes of this summer's transfer business has been the wild inflation of prices, the upshot has been that players with release clauses bolted into old contracts are suddenly the new place to look for bargains.

On a smaller scale, this meant that Everton could sign the highest-scoring Under-21 player from La Liga, and the top scorer of any bottom-half team, for £5.1m when they secured Sandro Ramirez from Malaga.

But what now as it's about to happen at the top end of the food chain?

Well in the headline move of the offseason it actually is about to. In a summer where Naby Keita is apparently worth £70m+ and Kyle Walker has already fetched £55m, Neymar's projected value should be getting up towards half a billion.

Instead, the Brazilian forward is available for just €222m (£197m) - which equates to roughly two-and-a-bit Romelu Lukakus - and Paris Saint-Germain are ready to trigger that clause.

For all Lukaku's goalscoring exploits in the Premier League, few would argue that the Belgian will ever reach the level of Neymar, a future Ballon d'Or winner and, just as importantly these days, a superstar name. The 25-year-old is one of the most marketable sportsmen on the planet, a hero on the world's most football-mad continent and the face of any number of huge brands. Neymar is not just a phenomenal footballer but he is an incredible commercial asset and one that has been immensely valuable for Barcelona.

His time in Spain has been difficult with his transfer from Santos causing an institutional crisis and costing the club president his job. Then there was the tax issue, and real belief that Neymar would walk out.

Paris Saint-Germain wanted a star this summer and have been looking high and low. At the beginning of the off-season they agreed a deal for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang but then the club hit the reset button, ditching sporting directors Patrick Kluivert and Olivier Letang, and hired Antero Henrique.

That deal was ditched and the club set about pursuing Cristiano Ronaldo, newly unhappy, but made little ground. Alexis Sanchez has been, and could again become, a target for the Parisians continue their shopping at the very top end.

Cristiano Ronaldo has long been PSG's top transfer target, but once again he said no

But what gave PSG renewed enthusiasm for Neymar is that Barcelona persisted with their interest in Marco Verratti.

Verratti wants to join Barcelona and told the Ligue 1 club as much but, for all their efforts, his camp and Barca have not been able to make PSG president Nasser El-Khelaifi budge. They tried being open about their interest, they tried silence, they tried subtelty, they tried everything - it would appear - except slapping in an actual bid.

Paris Saint-Germain want to be equals with Barca and the rest of Europe's elite and do not take kindly to having their talented players picked off by the more historically-successful clubs on the continent. They dug their heels in over veteran midfielder Thiago Motta last summer out of principle when they did not like how Atletico Madrid had approached him and they kept him out of spite or principle - depending on how you view it.

This summer they are looking to fight fire with fire and Neymar's clause offers them the perfect opportunity. Should they eventually have to relinquish Verratti, they are looking to grab an eye for an eye, and will only allow the Italian to leave if they're getting a bona fide superstar in return.

Verratti is a £100m player and, as has been discussed repeatedly on these pages, could be one of the most important deals in Europe for the next decade. Should Barca secure a fitting heir to Andres Iniesta it would be crucial for their continued success but at what cost? Should Neymar have become part of that price?

PSG will offer the Brazil international huge wages, astronomical in fact. They will pay the €222m price and not bat an eyelid. Rather, many would posit that they have got a bargain, with the deal about to go through.

Neymar has flirted with clubs before and never left, with Lionel Messi a key reason for that, but what if the Argentinean can't work his magic?

The fee is monumental but the most expensive transfer in history would actually be somewhat of a bargain and represents a huge gamble from Barcelona to once again shift the focus of their team from midfield to attack, and back to midfield, under a new coach who has yet to take charge of a single game.

It is the summer's box office deal and one which will change the footballing landscape forever.

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