Here comes the money! Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain for £198m in cash, up front. And he’ll make another £180.7m in wages for the next five years.
Then add in whatever his father gets for facilitating the deal – Neymar’s dad received more money from Barcelona in the last four years than Lionel Messi did, for crying out loud – plus the fee for becoming an ambassador for the Qatar 2022 World Cup, and you get one very large, very expensive but very effective shot straight into the heart of Barcelona’s self–appointed grandeur.
This isn’t Roman Abramovich parking Russian tanks outside Highbury and firing £50 notes at us, as David Dein put it a decade ago. This is the Qatari government building a hydrogen bomb using only gold, frankincense and myrrh to and dropping it directly onto the UEFA office where they decide on how to implement Financial Fair Play rules. FFP is dead.
Paris Saint-Germain will try to argue they are paying Neymar a wage representative of his stature in world football, which works out to just a little above Messi’s after tax. But their ability to pay such a wage is the issue. Without the help from Qatari investors, a club with the pedigree that PSG has might not be able to generate a turnover of around £198m-a-year, never mind a transfer this outlandish.
But how will all of this affect Arsenal moving forward? Long–term, it’s very hard to say. La Liga, no doubt at the behest of a desperate Barcelona, are refusing to accept the cheque from PSG that would trigger Neymar’s buyout clause. Nevertheless, the deal will be done sooner than later.
How UEFA, perhaps at the behest of other clubs not wanting to see their stars poached away with such impunity, will react to this will be fascinating. Contract buyouts are mandatory under Spanish employment law, UEFA can’t outlaw them. Maybe, with the benefit of hindsight, most clubs will look at this as a one-off and the market will remain at its current levels.
But for the short–term, all bets are off. The £198m that Barcelona are going to throw at clubs in Europe will be the most desperately sought–after money in world football since Tottenham tried to get Haringey Council to help pay to rebuild White Hart Lane. Everyone is going to want a piece of it, because they know how desperate Barcelona are going to be in order to try and save face here.
For a club who considers itself to be the best of the best, they have royally had their pants pulled down in front of their peers, and will now stop at nothing to restore some pride. Just how desperate will they be? Reports in Spain say that Barcelona have had a £100m bid for Philippe Coutinho rejected by Liverpool. Just read that last sentence again, just so it sinks in.
£100 million for Coutinho, and it’s been rejected. Coutinho, for goodness sake. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a fine player. But have a look at the top-six teams in the Premier League and who their best creative midfielder is:
- Eden Hazard – Chelsea
- Christian Eriksen – Tottenham
- Kevin de Bruyne/David Silva – Manchester City
- Philippe Coutinho – Liverpool
- Mesut Özil – Arsenal
- Paul Pogba – Manchester United
Including Silva, I’d have all the other six ahead of the Brazilian. Again, that’s not to say Coutinho isn’t very good, but look at the amount of players Barcelona could try to buy if Liverpool keep up their Oliver Twist impression and ask for ‘a little bit more’.
Barcelona absolutely need to buy a top-class player, if only to placate their fanbase who will be baying for blood after seeing one of their beloved ‘MSN’ walk out the door without their blessing. Fans are weird like that. We want absolutely loyalty from players who we want to stay, and we want absolute compliance from players who we want to leave.
If Barcelona either fail or just get fed up with Liverpool over Coutinho, they’ll go looking for someone else. Maybe it’ll be Paulo Dybala. Maybe it’ll be Ousmane Dembele. Maybe it’ll be Kylian Mbappe. Or maybe, just maybe, it’ll be a bloke they sold to Arsenal three years ago. Why bid £100 million for Coutinho when you might be able to get Alexis Sanchez for £70m or £80m?
Remember how the whole Luis Suarez fiasco started in 2013? Suarez’s agent informed Arsenal that his client was available for a fee similar to the one the Gunners were about to pay for Gonzalo Higuain. If Liverpool accept a fee close to £110m for Coutinho, do you think Alexis’ agent will be on the phone to Barcelona to inform them that he would be available for the same amount, if not a little less?
I’ve said before that I’d take £60m for Alexis, and it wouldn’t matter where it came from, as long as the money was well invested. Wenger can preach to the choir as long as he wants about keeping the Chilean all year, but turning down the sort of money Barcelona are offering for Coutinho would be an act of the highest folly.
Yes, we would be faced with a similar problem to what Barcelona are facing, with clubs raising prices due to the Catalans’ sudden influx of cash. But if we want Jean-Michael Seri, he’s going to cost £35m no matter what, thanks to his release clause. Thomas Lemar is going to be £60m at least, even if we sell Alexis or not.
For the next month, everyone in football who has an agenda to make Qatar look bad will do so. Two of those entities are Barcelona and the club owned by the ruling family of Abu Dhabi, Manchester City. Both clubs need a marquee signing. Both clubs have money burning a hole in their pockets. Both clubs need a player like Alexis Sanchez.
Arsene Wenger may feel confident in his belief that Alexis will stay, but for the next month, all bets are off.