The transfer window is one of the most exciting times in the year for any football fan. Clubs across the globe look to improve their squads to hopefully make challenging for the title, Europe or even to avoid relegation.

In recent years, some of the best players in the world have demanded astronomical fees. Gareth Bale moved from Tottenham Hotspur to Real Madrid in 2013 for a then record fee of around €100 million. Last season he helped Madrid retain the Champions League trophy as he came on as a substitute in Cardiff, a game they beat Juventus in 4-1. However, he has struggled with fitness throughout his time at the Bernabeu, as well as with the expectations put on him by the price tag (more than 4 time Ballon d’or winner, Portuguese forward and team mate, Cristiano Ronaldo).

Last summer, Paul Pogba returned to Old Trafford for £89 million. Since he has switched Juventus for Manchester United (a team he left in 2012 for a compensation fee of £800,000) he has performed admirably, but is yet to live up to the price tag yet, though he is only one season in. He has the ability to become possibly the world’s best midfielder, as long as he keeps improving.

So why do clubs consistently pay ridiculous fees for players? Being a Liverpool fan, I know all too well about inflated prices, with the likes of Raheem Sterling and Fernando Torres leaving for around £50 million each to Manchester City and Chelsea respectively. Let’s not forget Andy Carroll, the man who had maybe 2 or 3 good games in a Liverpool shirt and had legs with the structural integrity of a digestive biscuit! All that for £35.9 million, what a bargain…

Paris Saint-Germain have now smashed the record transfer fee, spending £200 million to buy Brazilian superstar Neymar dos Santos Jr. From FC Barcelona. There were talks of Barcelona reporting PSG to UEFA under Financial Fair Play rules.

Financial Fair Play was introduced in the 2011-12 season, with a number of clubs being investigated. In 2013, clubs received transfer bans or limitations based on how much they had over spent. Basically, FFP was made to try and make clubs sustainable by making them pay debts off and not pay outside of their means, hopefully helping to create a fairer situation with fewer clubs being able to splash out big to outbid a rival. It also meant negotiations became a balance of player worth and still abiding by FFP rules.

So if PSG, a team who is backed by Oryx Qatar Sports Investments, has bought Neymar for around £200 million and are paying him a rumoured £40.7 million a year (£782,000 before tax), how can they afford him? The obvious answer is by rules they shouldn’t be able to. But underneath the basic maths, there is some logic and possibly a few ways to retain money and not be penalised by UEFA.

The first, and most obvious way, is to sell players. Football is like a stock market, you buy and sell players in the hope for profit. Barcelona have been linked with a number of PSG’s top players, including former Real Madrid winger Angel Di Maria and Italian midfielder Marco Verratti. These, along with Uruguay striker Edinson Cavani, are the club’s most valuable players. But buying a player to improve a squad then selling your other star players is not ideal. Though selling one of these may provide a massive portion of the fee and get the wages off the books as well. The most likely seems to be Marco Verratti, who has been heavily linked with a €100 million move to Barcelona, according to MARCA.

Shirt sales will take a bit off the price and his wages. For a man with over 79 million followers on Instagram (at the time of writing), he has a huge fan base that will contain fans he gained through playing for the club and for being a football superstar. He is easily one of the most marketable players and was ranked 14th in the Sports Marketing Power List by the London School of Marketing, turning over £18.9 million a year through endorsements. This is including sports all over the world and sports which are hugely popular in the US, including basketball.

But endorsement is another way to earn even more money back. The club can demand a higher fee for sponsors as they now have one of the biggest names in football there to advertise to people. That means a higher advertising fee. But not only that, some clubs like to take part of the endorsements money players earn outside of football as almost a compensation for letting the player advertise for a company who is not a sponsor of the club. With his marketing power, he could end up paying his transfer fee back in a few years. But he needs to shine at PSG and take them to the final of the Champions League and win it to really make an impact. That’s when the marketing power will come in handy.

Neymar wanted to step out of the shadow of Lionel Messi, to be able to be the star of a team. He has that now, but he also has the responsibility of the club relying on him to perform. This will be one of the biggest challenges in Neymar’s career yet as he now has to deal with the transfer fee and being the star of a team who has so far failed to live up to expectations in Europe. Neymar needs to guide the team to a European trophy to be able to stand up to Ronaldo and Messi in the fight for FIFA’s Footballer Of The Year. At 25, he still has the potential to be the best in the world, but he has to prove he was worth the money.

The scare for me is that Barcelona now have that money to spend and a cleared wage budget. They could match the astronomical fee asked for Kylian Mbappe (roughly up to €200 million) and still have change. The 18 year old impressed in the AS Monaco team which won the Ligue 1 title. These fees could become normal, especially with Philippe Coutinho and Eden Hazard being rumoured transfer targets. These players could command 9 figure fees as the standard has been set. The Premier League is easily the most marketable league in the world due to the high calibre of players and English being one of the biggest languages in the world. With the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Everton and Arsenal, to name a few spending big so far, whether that be in a range of players or one, the value of players has increased dramatically. But the question remains, how long until the most popular sport in the world has players going for billions? The reality is not if, it’s when. Whilst the fees aren’t ridiculous when you take everything into account and how much the club will get from having such a high calibre, easily marketable player, what happened to the world of football which relied on youth teams and players playing for the club and not money.

That world is gone and money now rules football and this transfer has proved it to everyone. A player of Neymar’s quality should be playing in a league where every team is dangerous, such as the Bundesliga, La Liga or the Premier League. Ligue 1 has 4-5 teams who are dangerous and whilst more are becoming more established every year, the money in the French game accelerated some clubs much quicker than others, PSG being the major culprit. But Neymar’s transfer is only the start of what promises to be a ridiculous season for football.


(photo courtesy of Eurosport: