Of course Neymar’s move to PSG is great for the player financially, but it’s also good for European football
The title of ‘most expensive’ no longer belongs to Manchester United and France midfielder Paul Pogba, that label is now owned by Neymar, Paris Saint-Germain’s new No10.
PSG paid Barcelona a world-record £198m (€222m) for the Brazilian’s services, but believe it or not, there’s more to this move than money alone. The player himself alluded to it when he was unveiled to the world media in Paris: “I wanted something bigger, a bigger challenge.”
He continued: “This was about ambition. My heart told me it was time to sign for Paris Saint-Germain. It was the right time to leave Barcelona. I was never motivated by money. I thought above all else about the happiness of my family, regardless of money.”
Not sure if Neymar’s a Wale fan, wouldn’t be surprised if he is, but the title track from the 2011 Ambition album is so apropos:
“The time is now, on everything
Took my heart away from money
I ain’t interested in fame
And I pray that never change
Ambition is priceless
It’s something that’s in your veins
And I put that on my name”
Ambition – a strong desire to achieve something – is a trait all top athletes, across all sports, possess to some extent. That will to achieve and be better than the competition. Be the best you can be. Be the best in the world. Be better than your teammates? Why not?
There seems to be this notion that because football is a team sport, individual players shouldn’t be driven to be the best. Yes, Neymar is a footballer, one of 11 members on a team, but he is also an individual, an individual with an ego. All elite athletes seem to have an ego of some sort. Some more likeable than others, granted, but professional sportspeople are built a certain way. Well, at least the top ones are anyway.
Who’s the best footballer in the world right now? Many will say it’s between Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar’s former teammate at Barcelona Lionel Messi. Ronaldo is the current occupier of the Ballon d’Or, which is regarded as the ultimate individual accolade in world football. The Portuguese forward has won the prestigious award a respectable four times. Messi, however, has won it a record five times.
Neymar now wants in. The Brazilian was shortlisted in 2015 but finished third behind Ronaldo and Messi respectively. Now, after four seasons in Spain and every club trophy in his armoury, the 25-year-old is ready for a new challenge, he’s yearning for that Ballon d’Or recognition. It may be the end of MSN (Messi, [Luis] Suarez and Neymar), but just like life, the game goes on.
Barcelona, who did not want to sell Neymar, are now tasked with finding a replacement for the Brazilian. The likes of Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund’s new man in charge Peter Bosz, will be hoping the La Liga giants don’t come calling for their prized assets in Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele respectively, both of whom are being talked up as possible replacements for Neymar.
Neymar’s arrival in France might also see PSG offload some players. It’s reported the Brazilian will receive an eye-watering salary of around £520,000-per-week. Freeing up the wage bill would make economical sense for the Paris club, which could mean ‘au revoir’ to the likes of Blaise Matuidi, Serge Aurier and maybe even Angel Di Maria. There will be a queue of takers too, should such talent be deemed surplus to requirements.
Ironically, this transfer opens the door for clubs up and down Europe to do business. Huge business for whichever club Barcelona decides to purchase their Neymar replacement from, although not on the same scale as the current world-record fee, but expect a handsome figure all the same. That club will then probably be in the market for a replacement, and the cycle continues.
Neymar’s arrival in France will also go some way in changing the image of French football, or at least the way the league is viewed. Ligue 1, France’s top division, is up there as one of the biggest leagues in Europe, but it does not seem to carry as much clout as Spain’s La Liga, England’s Premier League, Serie A in Italy and the Bundesliga in Germany. Neymar’s arrival will go some way in making players see the league in a different light. Ligue 1 can now attract the game’s very best.
This can only be a good thing for the game in the long run. For the past seven years, players from two La Liga sides – Real Madrid and Barcelona – have shared the Ballon d’Or. Now, with Neymar on their books, PSG and Ligue 1 may well have the next one on their hands. It definitely seems like it’s only a matter of time, and when that time comes, and provided Neymar is still a PSG employee, he will become the first France-based player to win the award since Marseille’s Jean-Pierre Papin in 1991.
Neymar’s footballing pedigree cannot be questioned. He’s a two-time La Liga champion, a Champions League winner, three-time Copa del Rey winner, a Fifa World Club Cup winner, an Olympic gold medallist, the list goes on and on. Apart from the World Cup, he’s literally won it all, which leaves you asking what’s driving the 25-year-old? If it was money, the Brazilian would be playing in the Chinese Super League. Shanghai Shenhua’s Carlos Tevez is on a weekly salary of £615,000, making him the highest-paid player in the world.
Neymar is indeed paid handsomely at PSG, but it would be a disservice to the player to completely ignore his ambition and desire to be great, which this move signifies. You can’t put a price on that.