Brazilian icon smashes world transfer record

Rematch next year? Neymar scores a penalty for Barcelona against PSG, his future club. © Getty

Neymar has joined Paris Saint-Germain from Barcelona, becoming the most expensive footballer in history. Transfer fees have exploded this summer, but is it good for the game?

What would you rather have: the world’s most expensive painting or the world’s most expensive footballer?

Going by price, the footballer just edges it. But the gulf state of Qatar is spared the choice. They have bought the painting —Paul Cézanne’s The Card Players ($250m), and now Paris Saint-Germain, owned by a Qatari businessman, have bought Neymar, who thus becomes the world’s most expensive footballer.

The news that Neymar wanted to leave Barcelona broke slowly. At first, many disbelieved it. “Surely it’s just a ploy to get a better deal?” people asked.

Neymar’s Barcelona contract had a “release clause” of $263m. This meant that if a club bid that amount for him, Barcelona were obliged to let Neymar discuss terms with the bidding club. But €263m is over twice as much as the previous world transfer record. Barcelona never thought anyone would actually pay it.

But along came PSG, flush with oil money thanks to their owner, Nasser Al-Khelaifi. They plan to unveil Neymar today (Friday) and will pay him $700,000 per week — over $1 per second.

Many are now asking why on earth Neymar would leave Barcelona, one of the world’s most fabled clubs.

But it is impossible to consider Neymar’s motives without mentioning his Barcelona team-mate, Lionel Messi.

When the Brazillian first went to Barcelona, it was the perfect move. He was 21, and still needed to develop. But he was not under pressure to be the main man — that was Messi, with whom Neymar formed a devastating trio along with Luis Suarez.

Four years later Neymar is in his prime, but Messi, still as good as ever, continues to take the limelight. When Barcelona beat PSG 6–1 last season, Neymar had the biggest impact on the match, scoring twice. But it was an image of Messi held aloft by his teammates that went viral around the world.

At PSG, Neymar will be top dog. The team will be built around him, and he will develop a legacy separate from his friend and rival.

This is the footballing story of the summer. But does the lust for buying players do football any good?

Silly money

“Football is all about stories,” say some. And this is a fascinating tale, mixing themes of jealousy and fame among a classic “coming of age” story. Without these talking points football would not be the most popular sport in the world. Think how boring it would be if nobody ever moved clubs.

Others despair at this consumerism. Everyone loves transfers at the time: the players get a pay-rise and the fans are excited. But money is the death of innovation. Why experiment tactically if you can just buy Neymar? Why bother trying to develop your home-grown talent? As Jonathan Wilson writes in The Guardian: “Ultimately everybody loses.”

You Decide

  1. Is Neymar’s move to PSG good for football?
  2. Is Neymar just being greedy?


  1. Class debate: “This house believes that nobody is worth $263m.”
  2. Imagine if you earned $700,000 a week. Write a detailed plan about what you would do with that money.

Some People Say...

“Players should stay at the same clubs for their whole career.”

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Neymar’s Barcelona teammates have said goodbye to the Brazilian star as he moves to Paris Saint-Germain for a world record transfer fee. We know that transfer fees have increased enormously this summer and in the last few years, due to the proliferation of super-rich club owners and increased TV and sponsorship deals.
What do we not know?
Whether the move will be a success for Neymar. The French league has a lower global profile than either the Spanish or English leagues, but therein lies the attraction for him. He will become the face of football in France, and of his new club. We also do not know whether transfer fees will continue to rise at their rapid rate.

Word Watch

Paul Cézanne
A French impressionist painter, whose works are instantly recognisable for their broad brushstrokes. Many consider him to be the father of 20th century art.
Release clause
Yesterday Spanish league officials rejected an attempt by lawyers for Neymar to pay his buyout clause, believing that PSG were violating financial rules. But the French club — and the French League — did not agree and saw no reason why the issue should delay the transfer. Barcelona later confirmed that the payment had been received.
Previous world transfer record
The $124m paid by Manchester United to Juventus for midfielder Paul Pogba last summer.
Tim Vickery, the BBC’s South American football expert, believes that the move is partly motivated by Neymar’s desire to be fully fresh for the World Cup, which takes place next summer.
Barcelona beat PSG 6–1
Hailed as one of the greatest comebacks in footballing history, Barcelona turned around a 4–0 Champions League deficit from the first leg to win the second leg by five goals, with the tie’s winner scored in the last minute.