Image from the Independent
It’s got the whole world talking. Neymar’s move from Barcelona to Paris St-Germain for a fee that has smashed the world transfer record by over £100 million has potentially changed sports transfer dealings forever following a bizarre chain of events which even caught the most dedicated of ‘soccernomists’ by surprise. But the complicated nature of the move has really questioned the morality of sports’ ownerships, as PSG technically didn’t pay a single penny to sign the Brazilian superstar. Here’s our take on one of sports’ biggest sagas to date:
The Release Clause Rules
The first set of complications come from Barcelona and the Spanish league themselves, as ‘La Liga’ have different rules with regards to transfers compared to the rest of the footballing world. Due to new tax rules in Spain, every single registered player in the Spanish league, including superstars like Cristano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann, must have a release clause; a transfer fee which releases a player from their contract so they can move to another club. If a club wants to sign a player from a Spanish team, they must pay said player the release clause money, before the player’s agent or representatives deposit the money with the Spanish Football Association. The Spanish FA then have the right to accept or reject the transfer, but they normally let the transfer go ahead providing the money is there and their lawyers don’t spot anything controversial with the deal. Neymar’s release clause was €222 million, and there was certainly some controversy spotted by the Spanish FA.
Quite frankly, the French side would not be in this situation in the first place if it weren’t for their mega-rich Qatari owners, with the majority of the responsibility falling to chief executive Nasser Al-Khelafi. The businessman is also the owner of beIN sports, Qatari Sports Investments (QSi), as well as the President of the Qatari Tennis Federation, due to the fact that he was a professional tennis player when he was younger. Al-Khelafi also has a role in the Qatari government after he was made Minister of Portfolio in 2013. It’s also important to note that QSi have a shirt sponsorship agreement with Barcelona, who give the Catalan club a lot of money in this agreement. Furthermore, Al-Khelafi had a minor influence in Qatar’s successful bid for the 2022 World Cup, and all of this information is crucial with regards to the Neymar negotiations.
So how did this all happen?
At the start of the summer, PSG were looking for a big name to join their squad in order to try to achieve their main goal of winning the Champions League next season, and identified Neymar as their number one target. However, the French side would have realised they were not able to pay the €222 million release clause in a normal fashion, due to the Financial Fair Play Rules (FFP) introduced by UEFA in 2009. Therefore, the French side found an alternative way to pay the deal.
The way they did this sounds fairly simple. It is rumoured that Qatari owners of PSG Spoke to the country’s representatives for the 2022 World Cup and agreed to make the Brazilian forward an ambassador for the tournament, therefore paying Neymar a fee of €300 million as a reward for this. The French club would have then spoken to Neymar about a move and asked him to use this money to release him from his contract at Barcelona to move to Paris and earn a wage of €500,000 a week. The Brazilian supposedly agreed, but when his representatives deposited the money to La Liga, the Spanish FA initially rejected the move, and reportedly accused PSG of financial doping and therefore breaking the FFP rules. However, because the release clause money would have not directly come from PSG, as it technically came from Qatar’s World Cup representatives via Neymar’s own pocket, there would have been no clear evidence that PSG as a club were directly involved in giving the release clause money to Neymar, and the Spanish league were forced to accept the transfer. Barcelona were furious, but could not afford to appeal to FIFA or UEFA about the deal, as they were risking losing their sponsorship agreement with QSi, owned by the PSG chief executive.
What happens now?
Neymar’s move was completed last week, to the surprise of many, but can this really be seen as a world record transfer? Overall, a country basically owns a football club, and used its links to the staging of a future major football tournament to fund a major sporting transfer, and successfully negotiate with a complicated and diverse transfer system belonging to the Spanish FA. Does this change football and sporting transfers forever? In my opinion, not quite. This case is very much isolated to the French club, but it won’t mean that PSG will strike again in this manner in the coming years.
What do you think? Did Neymar really join PSG on a free? Or is there more to this deal? Let us know your views.