Photo by ALAIN JOCARD/AFP/Getty Images
- Real Madrid may well be months away from signing Neymar, the world record transfer fee holding forward at PSG.
- There are a number of factors at play that suggest a transfer may be coming.
- This includes the reported pressure Paris Saint-Germain is under to become Financial Fair Play compliant, the player’s apparent unhappiness in Paris, and Real’s known love for the Brazilian.
- Should Real and PSG agree a transfer it will mean Neymar becomes the sport’s first half a billion dollar player.
- Read all of Business Insider’s coverage for the 2018-2019 soccer season right here.
Neymar, one of the most divisive athletes in world soccer, looks set to stun the industry for the second time in his career in the coming months.
He has his detractors, it’s true. But boy, can he play.
You see, Neymar’s a player who has a penchant for dribbling, who possesses the ball skills and playmaking ability of his Barça predecessor Ronaldinho, and is a forward who, put quite simply, scores great goals for fun. He’s considered the third most valuable athlete in soccer right now, above Cristiano Ronaldo and above Lionel Messi.
That’s Neymar. Surely you’ve heard of him. If you haven’t, he gained international pedigree when he joined FC Barcelona for four seasons from 2013, where he quickly became a crucial part of the famed three-man "MSN" attack that featured Messi and Luis Suarez.
He won two La Liga titles, three Copa del Rey trophies, and the 2015 UEFA Champions League during his time at Camp Nou. He was regularly seen as one of the top five players on the planet, banged in 105 goals from 186 games in all competitions, and completed highlight-reel plays that delighted fans and media alike, like this:
He seemingly had it all, but at 25 — four years younger than Messi, a player he could have gone on to replace, perhaps even emulate — he gave that up to smash the world transfer fee record and move to Paris Saint-Germain.
A $261 million fee was agreed and Neymar moved clubs, leagues, and countries in 2017 in a deal that sent shockwaves around the globe.
But less than two years into his Ligue 1 career in France, the forward apparently wants out once again, and could therefore become soccer’s first half-a-billion-dollar player in the process.
He has, after all, already generated $350 million in combined transfer fees when taking into account his 2013 move from Santos to Barcelona, and his 2017 transfer from Barça to Paris. A summer transfer back to Spain, this time to Madrid, could add a further $250 million to his career transfer fees to date — making his combined lifetime transfer fees $600 million, a world record.
How do we know he might be on the move?
Well, there are 5 factors that suggest another transfer is coming, and it could come in a matter of months.
- There is reportedly growing pressure on PSG to be compliant with financial fair-play regulations.
- The rapid emergence of Kylian Mbappe means the club is less reliant on Neymar.
- Neymar is apparently unhappy in Paris, and dreamed of playing for Real Madrid as a kid.
- Neither Neymar or his father/agent have ruled out a summer switch.
- Real itself wants, and needs, a Galactico-style signing to replace Cristiano Ronaldo and elevate a failing team — and Neymar fits the bill perfectly.
Photo by Miguel Ruiz/FC Barcelona via Getty Images
1: Pressure to be Financial Fair Play compliant
The Times reports that PSG is "under pressure" to "adhere to UEFA Financial Fair Play regulations."
Financial Fair Play regulations are in place to avoid what has commonly become known as "financial doping." PSG has even been accused of financial doping by the La Liga president Javier Tebas, because of its recent mega signings.
Financial doping occurs when a soccer club injects massive amounts of cash that it did not raise itself through commercial deals, gate receipts, or player sales. This money, potentially gifted or loaned by a wealthy owner, is said to be used in player recruitment and designed to make teams competitive at the highest echelons of world soccer. PSG’s dual signings of Neymar and Mbappe for around $500 million led UEFA to open an official investigation into the club’s dealings, to learn whether it was compliant with Financial Fair Play.
Selling Neymar would raise $261 million because of the likely transfer fee, and also save PSG approximately $41 million a year in wages. Facilitating the sale could mean PSG wouldn’t have to concern itself with Financial Fair Play regulations.
Paris Saint-Germain has yet to respond to Business Insider’s query as to whether it needed to sell a player to become Financial Fair Play compliant, and whether it would consider selling Neymar.
2: The rise of Kylian Mbappe means Neymar may not even be missed
Kylian Mbappe is a versatile player who excels as a center forward, as a winger, or even as an attacker in a more withdrawn role.
Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images
But the reason he excites is not where he plays, it’s how he plays. Mbappe channels the true greats of soccer because he has the pace and wing-forward instincts of an in-form Thierry Henry, the dribbling finesse and the ability to manipulate space like Brian Laudrup, and the scoring instincts and prolificacy of the former Brazil striker Ronaldo.
Mbappe burst onto the soccer scene with AS Monaco in 2016, made a mega money move to PSG within a year, and won the FIFA World Cup with France while still a teenager in 2018.
Now 20, Mbappe is the second-greatest performer in Ligue 1 this season according to Whoscored.com data. Though he may be second only to Neymar, the youngster actually has a superior striking efficiency with a goal scored or created once for every 56 minutes he’s been on the pitch, compared to Neymar’s average of one goal every 59 minutes.
As Mbappe is still young he will only improve with every season as he continues to grow as a professional soccer player. He is, after all, still six or seven years away from his athletic prime, according to the BBC.
But Mbappe has been shining even without Neymar, who has been sidelined with a recurring foot injury since mid-January. With Neymar out of the PSG team, Mbappe has revelled and shouldered the goal-scoring burden with aplomb.
In the seven games Mbappe has played while Neymar’s been in rehab for his foot, the Frenchman has scored seven times and provided one assist. He’s helped the team beat Manchester United, scored jaw-dropping goals, and ensured PSG remains dominant in Ligue 1.
Mbappe has shown PSG it doesn’t need Neymar, especially if that Neymar is unhappy.
3: Neymar is reportedly unhappy in Paris
The Spanish journalist Diego Torres, writing in the daily Spanish newspaper El Pais last year, said Neymar does not enjoy the Parisian weather, is isolated from his teammates, and chooses to spend time with his entourage rather than the team.
And Italy’s English language soccer website Calciomercato said he "seems to be regretting his world record switch," that "the environment and defensive approach to the game that exists in Ligue 1" is disappointing, and that he was enraged when PSG fans booed him in January.
One thing that could solve his reported unhappiness is the realization of a childhood dream — and that dream was to play for Real Madrid.
He was even trialed at Real when he was a young teen, according to Goal.com. In 2005, aged 13, Neymar spent 19 days at Madrid, watched home games at the club’s impressive Santiago Bernabeu stadium, and took photographs with the team’s top players like Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo, and Roberto Carlos.
"The Real Madrid dream is a reality," a teenage Neymar said at the time, to ESPN Brazil, 14 years ago. Ultimately Neymar did not join the club on a full-time basis. He returned to Brazil, blossomed at Santos, and did not fly back to Spain until he joined Barcelona nine years later.
4: He refuses to rule out a summer switch to Real
Photo by JACQUES DEMARTHON/AFP/Getty Images
Both Neymar and his father/agent Neymar Snr. have refused to completely rule out a blockbuster move.
The player told Globo earlier this week that "Real is one of the biggest clubs in the world," according to Goal.com. He then said "everyone that is followed by Real Madrid would feel attracted to play there," said he was "happy in Paris," but concluded by remarking that "no one knows the future."
Neymar’s father was just as ambiguous during a Telefoot interview recently. He said his son "feels very happy in Paris," that his "present is in Paris," but that "it’s hard to talk about the future because in football, it can change at any time."
And change may be coming for Neymar Jnr. "Madrid is a very big club, any player with quality would like to wear their shirt," he said, according to CBS Sports.
Perhaps pre-empting the reaction that quote would receive, he added: "For God’s sake, I’m not saying I’m going to play for Real Madrid, calm down. I’m not saying that."
However, Neymar is certainly one of the "players with quality" he mentioned.
5: Real wants, and needs, a player with quality
Real Madrid is a team whose players are used to being the kings of Europe. For the last three seasons in a row, with Zidane on the touchline and Ronaldo on the pitch, the team kept winning the UEFA Champions League.
But with Zidane gone and Ronaldo sold, the team is in disarray. On Tuesday, March 5 the club was completely humiliated in the Round of 16, as Ajax stunned Real 4-1 on the night and 5-3 on aggregate — the team’s worst European run for a decade. It is also third in La Liga, five points behind local rival Atletico Madrid and a dozen adrift of bitter enemy Barcelona.
Something has to change. The two-time Champions League winning coach Jose Mourinho has been linked with a return to the Bernabeu dugout, while The Independent, Sky Sports, and Goal.com have all published Neymar transfer rumors in the last nine months.
Those close to Real have made it no secret that the club desires Neymar, and have even made public pitches to the player.
Real president Florentino Perez used a World Player of the Year ceremony to woo Neymar in front of the watching world. Knowing Neymar desires world number one status, he said it would be easier to achieve that if he was in Madrid. According to Reuters, Perez said: "Real Madrid is a club which gives all you need as a big player, everyone knows that I already wanted to sign him at one point."
The Spanish soccer expert Guillem Balague, who presents for Sky Sports and has written books about Pep Guardiola, Messi, and Ronaldo, said Neymar "fills the void" left by Ronaldo. In the Bleacher Report, Balague said: "There’s nobody that he [Perez] sees that could have the commercial impact of him but also on the pitch as well." Balague added that Neymar "definitely wants to leave" PSG.
So what does all of this mean?
Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images
There are enough factors at play to reasonably conclude that there is credibility in the transfer rumors linking Neymar with a headline-grabbing summer move from PSG to Real.
Real has courted him in the past, Neymar has spoken glowingly of the Madrid club before, and the transfer benefits PSG because it helps ensure Paris becomes Financial Fair Play compliant while not weakening the team because of the incredible form of Mbappe.
There may even be a transfer fee ready to agree. MARCA, the national Spanish daily newspaper, reported that a release clause in Neymar’s PSG contract becomes active in the coming months. This clause reportedly means Neymar can be bought out of the deal should PSG be reimbursed the same fee it paid Barcelona in 2017.
That’s $261 million.
On top of all the transfer fees he’s already generated, it would mean Real may well be a matter of months away from unveiling the sport’s first half-a-billion-dollar player based on combined transfer fees alone. But only time will tell whether he will have the impact expected of a signing that big.
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