Neil Humphreys: Neymar transfer is a Qatari political play
PSG deal is a Qatari PR exercise and nothing to do with football
No footballer is worth a quarter of billion dollars. And no one in the industry should seek to rationalise such a tasteless display of self interest.
But they are. Of course they are.
From alleged sports lovers to those with vested media or corporate interests, Neymar's 222m-euro move to Paris Saint-Germain is being explained away or played down.
Ignore the hysteria, they say. It's not apocalypse now, but a freakish confluence of football and economic forces, all conspiring to create a deal for the ages.
But Neymar isn't a player for the ages. He wasn't even the best player at Barcelona. Instead, he's become a political pawn for the self-serving powerbrokers in Qatar.
PSG's owners - Qatar Sports Investments - are now proving that a foreign country can own a football club and one of the game's biggest PR operatives.
Neymar represents an emollient to alleviate the tension in an isolated emirate. Qatar has more money than friends right now. The oligarchs could use a friend with almost 80 million followers on Instagram.
The timing cannot be ignored. For two months, Qatar has been marginalised and threatened in an ongoing dispute with its neighbours.
Neymar's signing looks like an unsubtle attempt to reassure long-term investors and repeat the laughable narrative about Qatar being a committed, dependable nation ahead of its corruption-ravaged 2022 World Cup.
What does any of this have to do with football? Well, not much, obviously.
PSG's apparent contempt for Uefa's financial fair-play (FFP) regulations provides just one example of the club's indifference not only to any whimsical belief in the Corinthian spirit, but also the game itself.
Put simply, FFP was introduced in a bid to stop the "one-team leagues" that PSG intend to create in France.
Over a fixed period, a club's expenditure should largely match their income, to prevent billionaire owners from simply buying every pretty young thing on the market.
But PSG have been creative with their accounting in the past to get around FFP (and were sanctioned accordingly) and, according to several reports, Neymar has agreed to become an ambassador for Qatar's World Cup.
Naturally, his fee for a few selfies and the odd appearance at a Qatari football academy is rumoured to be around £200 million (S$355m).
In other words, he could literally buy out his own release clause, using Qatari cash, without the club falling foul of FFP regulations.
Nothing to see here, Uefa. Move along.
Of course, Barcelona's pitiful complaints to La Liga, whining on about those nasty PSG bullies, reek of hypocrisy.
Both Barca and Real Madrid are no strangers to financial belligerence in the transfer market and their signings often came with political strings attached.
Perhaps a presidential incumbent was seeking re-election or a pretender to the throne sought to curry favour among the football-mad masses.
Either way, sporting and domestic issues usually carried the day.
But Neymar's signing is a blatant PR exercise for a foreign country, with obvious ramifications for the unhinged transfer market.
Barcelona may now come for Philippe Coutinho. Liverpool could comfortably hold out for £100m. The Brazilian isn't worth that much, but sanity left the building with Neymar's designer luggage.
The Reds may then resume their chase for Naby Keita. The midfielder's club, RB Leipzig, will soon clamber aboard the gravy train. A fee of £70m has been reported.
Keita has played just one full season for RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga.
Only a couple of years ago, any half-decent prospect with a single campaign under his belt would do well to attract one fifth of £70m.
It's a trickle-down effect, but only of the warped, Trumpian kind. The cash reaches a lucky few, those fortunate enough to have produced a couple of gems in their academies.
The rest are fighting for scraps. Only now, the scraps cost tens of millions.
Record transfers have always seemed exorbitant, whatever the amount, whatever the decade, but Neymar's sale makes him the first player in 85 years to more than double the previous transfer record.
PSG's deal goes way beyond being just the latest example of a money-crazed sport gone mad.
It's not even a football decision, but a cynical, political one, taken to boost the reputation of a troubled nation.
PSG deserve not praise but punishment if FFP has really been contravened.
Generally speaking, Ligue 1 teams do not find a quarter of a billion euros down the back of the sofa. But the money must come from somewhere.
If it doesn't, Uefa has the power to ban clubs from European competition.
And that would be the most bitter of ironies for Neymar.
He can't win the Ballon d'Or if PSG are kicked out of the Champions League.
Football’s world record transfers
- Neymar (222m) Barca to PSG, 2017
- P Pogba (105m) Juve to Man Utd, 2016
- G Bale (101m) Spurs to R Madrid, 2013
- C Ronaldo (94m) Man Utd to R Madrid, 2009
- Zidane (75m) Juve to R Madrid, 2001
Fees in millions of euros (1 euro=S$1.60)
What can you get for 222m euros?
- 965,217 meals at the Eiffel Tower’s Jules Verne restaurant.
- 15,000 bottles of Cote de Nuits Romanee-Conti, the world’s most expensive wine.
- 153 Neymar clones — the cost of human cloning is about £1.29m. Why spend £198m on one Neymar when you could have 153 clones at that price?
- 20 Rolls Royce Swep-tail — the most expensive car in the world was sold for 11 million euros this year.
- 3.6 Pink Stars — the world’s most expensive diamond this year
- 3 Boeing 737-700 passenger planes.
- 2 Paul Pogbas — The previous world record transfer, set only last year when Man United paid Juventus 105 million euros for Pogba, has been dwarfed by Neymar’s deal. — WIRE SERVICES