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Did Neymar’s Move to PSG Prove That Financial Fair Play is a Myth?

The consequences of ownership of big football clubs have been changing the sport’s landscape for a number of years now. The money that comes in with names such as Sheikh Mansour and Nasser Al-Khelaifi have redefined how mediocre clubs can be transformed into super clubs in a mere number of years, taking the elites of the game by the horns.

Back in 2014, both Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) were heavily punished by UEFA under Financial Fair Play (FFP) guidelines. The FFP laws were introduced 7 years back to prevent clubs from spending more than they actually earned. But in 2015, the rules were revised, to take into consideration concerns that the system preserved the status quo, with smaller clubs unable to speculate in the hope of success.

But Neymar’s transfer saga is a whole new financial juggernaut, which has made fans and experts speculate the effectiveness of the FFP laws. On Thursday, PSG broke the world record for a player transfer, set in the previous year by Manchester United paying £89.3m for Paul Pogba, by obtaining Neymar for a ridiculous £198m. PSG was desperate enough for the Brazilian’s signature that they went on to match his release clause set by Barcelona; an amount set so high, that it is meant to act as a deterrent for potential offers. To put the absurdity of the amount into perspective – UN has member states with GDPs lesser than the amount being paid.

As of June 2017, PSG is expected to have a net valuation of $841m (£642m), according to Forbes. So, here comes the important question; how can PSG afford a transfer deal valued at one-third its entire valuation?

The secret to the trade lies in how FFP accounting allows for transfer fees to be paid over the length of the player’s contract, which gives clubs a bit of wriggle room. The revised rules also allow owners to spend an additional €30m (£26.8m) of their own money over a rolling three‑year period. PSG may opt to sell three or four players at £50m a time during the next couple of years. The Spanish press have also claimed that the deal could be carried out in a more roundabout way.

Mundo Deportivo, the Spanish sports newspaper, has reported that Neymar may have already agreed to become an ambassador for Qatar’s World Cup and that the fee for this might be around £200m. In that case Neymar could have been able to turn up at the offices of La Liga and buy out his own release clause, which might seem a bit too convenient, but in that case the club will directly not be involved.

So, what does all this mean for the sport? The entire transaction will undoubtedly accelerate the rhythm of this already inflation-stricken transfer market. At this rate, Cristiano Ronaldo’s then record fee feels like a steal by Real Madrid. The Brazilian playmaker’s presence in Spain was so crucial to the sport that even La Liga tried to intervene at the final hour and prevent the transfer as the league is expected to lose viewership over the player’s departure.

Where does Neymar and his future plans fit into this transfer saga? Till now, Neymar was deemed as the rightful heir to the Catalonian side after Messi’s eventual demise in upcoming years. He was one-third of perhaps the best attacking trio in the history of the game. He was Barcelona’s promised prince, yet all this time he was looming under Messi’s shadows. Despite being reported to earn £537,000 per week after tax at PSG, perhaps Neymar’s biggest motivation to leave Barcelona is to have a team of his own, one which will be structured to fit around the way he plays, one which will have him at the center of it all. But will he be able to deliver upon the gargantuan belief which has been placed upon his potential? Will he be able to take the very team he had decimated single-handedly last season to top of European glory? The coming years will tell.

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