PARIS, France, Aug 4 – The arrival of Neymar at Paris Saint-Germain in a Sh27.3bn($263.5m) world record move will have a significant knock-on effect on an already unbridled transfer market.
In the summer of 2016, clubs in the five leading European leagues (England, Spain, Italy, Germany and France) spent a combined 3.3 billion euros, according to a study by financial experts Deloitte.
With almost a month still to go in this summer’s window, the combined total is already approaching three billion euros, going by estimates from the specialist website Transfermarkt.
And so PSG’s payment of the release clause in Neymar’s contract only confirms the trend in a record-breaking summer.
“I don’t think £200 million for Neymar is expensive,” admitted the Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho, whose club previously broke the record last summer by paying £89 million to Juventus for Paul Pogba.
“Neymar is one of the best players in the world, so commercially that is very strong but the problem is not Neymar — the problem is the consequences.”
United have themselves splashed the cash this summer, spending close to £150 million including £75 million on Everton striker Romelu Lukako, a record deal between two British clubs.
PSG may have taken the world record, but English clubs lead the way overall thanks to the eye-watering money generated by the Premier League’s television rights deals.
Across Manchester, City benefit from the Premier League’s wealth as well as the funds of their owners from Abu Dhabi.
They have already spent more than £200 million in the transfer market, twice breaking the world record for a defender in the space of days with the recruits of Kyle Walker from Tottenham Hotspur and Benjamin Mendy from Monaco.
Champions Chelsea have shelled out up to £150 million on Antonio Ruediger, Alvaro Morata and Tiemoue Bakayoko, and Premier League clubs are not far from breaking their collective record spend from last year of just over £1 billion.
The spending bug has caught on in Italy too, with AC Milan’s new Chinese owners lavishing over 100 million euros on a host of new signings, including Italy defender Leonardo Bonucci from Juventus for 40 million euros.
– ‘Unsustainable’ –
However, not all of Europe’s giants wish to partake in this spending frenzy.
“I don’t want to buy a player for 150 or 200 million euros, I don’t want to join in such madness. That’s something that we will refuse totally,” Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness told SID, an AFP subsidiary.
Veteran Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, who has been criticised by supporters in the past for an apparent lack of willingness to spend huge sums on individual players, says the Neymar deal is “beyond calculation and rationality”.
“For me, it is the consequence of the ownerships and that has completely changed the whole landscape of football in the last 15 years,” he said.
But in a landscape where other leagues are collectively struggling to compete with the monstrous sums handed out to teams in England, the move for Neymar can also be seen as a huge boon for French football as a whole.
“Even if the arrival of Neymar raises questions about the real coast, we all congratulate Nasser (Al Khelaifi, the PSG president) and PSG. This is huge for the notoriety of Ligue 1,” tweeted Jean-Michel Aulas, the owner of rivals Lyon and a regular critic of Paris and their Qatari owners in the past.
Tottenham Hotspur chairman Daniel Levy is another who thinks the current levels of spending are “unsustainable”, and it is therefore no surprise that his club have kept their hands in their pockets this summer.
Yet when clubs have the backing of a state behind them, like PSG, such moves are less about making an investment and more to do with making a statement.
“It is by attracting such top players that clubs will be able to win trophies and gain notoriety but these transfers will not be made profitable by ticket sales or merchandising,” said the French sports economist Jean-François Brocard.