In a quiet season for business news, the giant cesspit that is the world of elite football can be relied upon to provide a money story with a pungent whiff to it. I refer to the transfer of the 25-year-old Brazilian known only as Neymar from Barcelona to Paris St Germain for a world-record fee close to £200 million. When Neymar was bought by Barcelona from Santos of Brazil in 2013, a £200 million break clause was inserted in his contract in the belief that no club in the world could possibly afford to buy him out. But PSG has done so even though Spanish football authorities refused to facilitate the payment, in the belief that it might breach ‘financial fair play’ rules designed to prevent clubs spending beyond their means.
The complexities of this tale are probably too much for Spectator readers. Suffice to add that Neymar’s contracts are brokered by his father — and that both Neymars are reportedly under investigation by tax authorities, as was Barcelona after the transfer from Santos. As for PSG, it is France’s most famous football club but with a stadium capacity of just 48,000 you might wonder how it can possibly afford a player who will cost €30 million a year on top of his transfer fee. The answer is that football at this level has nothing to do with what fans want or can afford, and everything to do with impenetrable deal-making; and by the way, did I mention PSG is owned by a state investment company from Qatar?
This is an extract from Martin Vander Weyer’s ‘Any Other Business’, which appears in this week’s Spectator