Neymar Transfer – Geopolitics and the Impact on World Football

Neymar Transfer – Geopolitics and the Impact on World Football

Manuel Veth –

Neymar has left Barcelona and joined Paris Saint-Germain for €222 million. The Brazilian striker, therefore, will shatter the record set by Manchester United’s Paul Pogba, who joined United from Juventus for €105 million last summer. But including Neymar’s salary of €40 million, a season means that the deal is worth €382 million over the next four years—more if reports are accurate that Neymar’s salary is after tax, which is substantial in France.

The amount of money is staggering. In fact, it not only defies belief, but Neymar will never be able to amortise the funds spent on him. Speaking to ZDF Sport re-known German sports lawyer, Christoph Schickhardt explains that Neymar can never repay the money invested in him either on or off the field.

Schickhardt identifies two major problems when it comes to PSG’s Neymar deal. First, off the field, Neymar does not have the sort of marketing power that Cristiano Ronaldo has off the field. “The player just lacks the looks to become a major marketing vehicle for PSG off the field.”

Financially there are also issues on the field. Schickhardt believes that at most PSG will get 13 or 14 good games out of Neymar per season, which is not enough to justify the almost €100 million a year the club is going to spend on the Brazilian.

Neymar injury history is much better than Schickhardt suggests. On average Neymar has only missed between two to four games a season for Barcelona. Regardless Schickhardt, of course, has a point. An injury to Neymar at this point would be a financial disaster for the Paris based club.

Neymar Transfer is a Political Statement by Qatar

Those points, however, are pointless for the Qatari owners of PSG. They want to make a statement to the world with this transfer that goes far beyond the football pitch. For them signing Neymar for their flagship club is a statement of strength.
Qatar has been at the centre of a political struggle with its neighbours. Saudi Arabia together with its allies on Arabian peninsula have put economic sanctions and cut off diplomatic ties with the country accusing Qatar of supporting and funding terrorism as well as manipulating the internal affairs of its neighbouring states.

No stranger of being accused of supporting terrorism themselves Saudi Arabia let the charge against Qatar saying that the country was supporting its enemy Iran. Those events let to the 2017 Qatar diplomatic crisis, which is still currently ongoing.

The neighbouring countries among others demand that Qatar cuts down its international media network. They fear the power reach of television stations like Al Jazeera and Saudi Arabia has demanded that the television station should be closed.

Geopolitical events have meant that Qatar's 2022 World Cup has come under pressure. (KARIM JAAFAR/AFP/Getty Images)

Geopolitical events have meant that Qatar’s 2022 World Cup has come under pressure. (KARIM JAAFAR/AFP/Getty Images)

As a result of Saudi Arabia’s actions, nine sovereign countries cut diplomatic ties with Qatar. Four other countries downgraded diplomatic relations without fully cutting relations. Furthermore, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Mauritania, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt have asked FIFA to remove Qatar’s right to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

This last step would be a significant step back in Qatar’s nation building effort, which has been hugely defined through sport. By hosting sports events and building the Aspire Academy, which operates KAS Eupen in Belgium in an attempt to improve the national team have played a major part in placing the country on the map.

National Building Through Sports is a Common Phenomena

Nation building through sport, in fact, has become a major cornerstone of emerging economies. Furthermore, Qatar is not alone in this effort. Russia, through Gazprom, Azerbaijan, through SOCAR, the UAE, through their investments at Manchester City, Uzbekistan, through Bunyodkor Tashkent, Kazakhstan, through the state sponsored club FC Astana, and recently China, by investing heavily into the Chinese Super League and the Milanese clubs, have all used football as a vehicle for state propaganda.

The political background is necessary to keep in mind the Neymar transfer. Signing Neymar for €222 million is not about making PSG better. It is all about showing that Qatar despite the financial pressure put on them by their regional rivals can easily finance a player of Neymar’s quality.

In fact, do not be surprised if this is not the last mega deal completed by PSG this summer. Qatar has the spending power to bring in more players, and they do not have to fear the UEFA Financial Fair Play watchdogs.
The circumnavigation of FFP is perhaps the other big news of this transfer. Under normal circumstances, no club on the planet could afford this sort of transfer. But Neymar’s exit clause means that not PSG, but the player have to spend the money to dissolve the contract that bound him to Barcelona.

Hence, Neymar was given the money directly to complete the deal. PSG will, of course, be responsible for justifying his wage structure, but over a full four years, a rich club like PSG should be able to justify the spending of €160 million on salary—especially if the club does well in the Champions League.

PSG signing Neymar shows that Qatar has the financial power despite the economic sanctions to remain a global player. (Photo by Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images)

PSG signing Neymar shows that Qatar has the financial power despite the economic sanctions to remain a global player. (Photo by Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images)

The Neymar deal is therefore not of exuberant proportions it also transcends way beyond football tying geopolitics with nation building. At its centre, however, are two European super clubs, who as of a result of the Neymar transfer could cause a significant ripple on the European football transfer market.

The Neymar Deal Shows – No Club is Safe When States Come to Play

While Paul Pogba’s transfer record from 2017 is now history, his second spot on the list of mega transfers might be gone soon too as other clubs are jockeying to line up their mega deals. Barcelona have already been linked with the likes of Philippe Coutinho from Liverpool and Ousmane Dembélé from Borussia Dortmund. Both players would cost more than the €105 million Manchester United spent for Pogba last summer.

Borussia Dortmund have already responded somewhat relaxed to the news that Dembélé could be off to Barça soon. Die Schwarz-Gelben know full well that they would emerge from this transfer summer with either Dembélé on the squad or with the sort of transfer fee in their pocket that could set up the club to become a strong financial competitor to Bayern München.

Over in Liverpool, the situation is a bit different. Manager Jürgen Klopp has already suggested that he has dealt with players leaving in the past, referring especially to Nuri Sahin, and it appears that Barcelona will now intensify their effort to purchase Coutinho from the Reds.

The PSG deal, however, also has an impact on Barcelona’s rival Real Madrid. Real has always identified itself as the club that can sign the world’s most expensive players. PSG and Manchester United have now outspent them over the last two summers. Signing Kylian Mbappe from Monaco would, of course, secure them second place, but at the same time, Real are in danger of one day losing their leading man as well.

During the Confederations Cup in Russia Cristiano Ronaldo seemed set to leave Real this summer. The transfer rumour has died down since then. But the Neymar deal highlights that even mega clubs like Real are safe when states driven by geopolitical events decide to play real life Football Manager.

Manuel Veth is a freelance journalist and social media junior editor at He is also a holder of a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which will be available in print soon. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada.  Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.