Neymar’s move to Paris Saint-Germain about money, not winning

James Sharman joined Sportsnet's Starting Lineup to discuss Neymar's potential departure from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain and why the French giants are willing to pay his massive release clause.

Neymar’s drawn-out-but-nonetheless-shocking move to Paris Saint-Germain is not about being the man or moving out of Lionel Messi’s shadow. Despite what he has said, it’s about money — roughly £27 million a season after taxes, or a wage of £520,000 per week.

The 25-year-old ended a four-year stint with Barcelona — a stint that included a Champions League trophy, two La Liga titles, three Copas del Reya, one FIFA Club World Cup and one Spanish Super Cup — to become the world’s richest footballer.

Neymar was the player who was supposed to replace Messi. Now he is the player Barca is scrambling before the season to replace.

When most people think of PSG, they think of the humiliating 6–1 defeat to Barcelona in the Champions league quarterfinals to lose 6–5 on aggregate. But today they are no closer to beating Barca and, in fact, the two clubs are probably farther apart.

This signing alone won’t take PSG over the top. What it will do is sell a lot of shirts. The Nike pitchman is one of the most marketable players in the sport and fits in well as the face of PSG, which is also sponsored by Nike.

Not surprisingly, Nike immediately raised the price of Neymar’s new jersey in comparison to other shirts they sell. An authentic Neymar jersey now sells for £112.95.

But even the commercial benefit is limited. PSG is not Manchester United or Real Madrid. They don’t have the international clout to make the transfer-fee money back on shirt sales the way United and Real can on the Paul Pogba and Cristiano Ronaldo deals.

PSG do have Edison Cavani, Marquinhos and Marco Veratti to complement Neymar, but they are still not guaranteed to get past the Champions League quarterfinals on the back of that group. In fact, PSG now just 11–1 to win Champions league, according to Bet 365. Barcelona currently sits at 4–1.

To truly shrink the gap between PSG and the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, they’ll need further additions. But after bringing in Neymar, financial fair play rules will make that task difficult.

In complying with financial fair play, they will have to sell — not buy. That means Angel Di Maria’s future with the club is in doubt as he will net the greatest return. Blaise Matuidi, Hatem Ben Arfa and Serge Aurier could all be following him out the door. All of these moves need to be made before the end of the transfer window at the end of the month, so time is not on their side to drive up a great price.

PSG is now going to be heavily investigated by UEFA under the guise of financial fair play. If they can’t prove they can balance the books after this signing they may get fined, sanctioned or even banned from Champions League. If the goal is to win Champions League, making a deal that is going to hurt you in that pursuit — both in finances and football depth — makes no sense.

After joining the club, Neymar said “the biggest challenge which is motivating me to join my new teammates is to help PSG win the titles fans want. PSG’s ambition is what has brought me to the club.”

But let’s be honest — every top-flight team and its fans want to win titles. And if the goal really is to win them, then he was already in the best possible place for that in Barcelona.

If Neymar really wanted a challenge, or to take on more responsibility for winning, he could have just bided his time. He would have become the man at Barcelona in the future.

On the flip side of the deal, Barca may be scrambling to replace Neymar now, but don’t feel bad for them. When Juventus sold Paul Pogba to Manchester United in 2016, they used the €105 million they received to strengthen other areas.

Barcelona is one of the best clubs in the world and they now have an influx of cash to become even scarier.

Barcelona can afford to sign Phillippe Cuotinho, Ousmane Dembele and Kylian Mbappe. If they land two of that trio, they’re better off both in the short term and the long term.

Could we see a return of Alexis Sanchez? Maybe they save some of the extra cash and go after Antoine Griezman next year or get a replacement for Gerard Pique, who is aging at the back.

Usually players get in line to play in Barcelona. Academy players never want to leave. Before Neymar did it for record money, we’d never seen a player at the peak of his game want to leave Barcelona. But in the end the team will be better for the star’s departure.