How Neymar's transfer started off the longest domino effect ever
When Neymar moved from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain in early August for a fee of €222 million, it was a simply seismic move.
Not only did the deal shatter the previous transfer record, more than doubling the fee that took Paul Pogba from Juventus to Manchester United, it caught one of the game’s greatest powers off guard.
Barca were ill-prepared to cope with the loss of one of their greatest stars, a player they had hoped – and expected – would spend the best part of his playing career wowing fans at Camp Nou. There was no succession plan in place, as was evidenced by the mad scramble they had in the final three weeks of the transfer window trying to find a successor.
Consequently, the ramifications of the Neymar deal are still being felt four months on – and it would be surprising if the ripple effect caused by the biggest transfer ever dies before the close of the January window.
Barcelona have found that having a huge transfer kitty does not guarantee success in the transfer market, particularly, if rivals know exactly how much money is available to spend.
While they signed Ousmane Dembele in the summer from Dortmund, their real prize was Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho, yet the Reds were able to inflate the price of the Brazilian to an astronomical sum.
They could afford to do this because the Brazilian was – and remains, despite Mohamed Salah’s stunning start – their outstanding asset, a player that they did not wish to sell. Furthermore, they were aware that Barca had at least €222m to spend and were under intense pressure to do so due to their lack of offensive cover.
In hindsight, the Catalans might have been wise not to make it public knowledge that they had demanded every cent of Neymar’s transfer up front before allowing him to leave for PSG. It was a fit of frustration that complicated their life in the summer as it sent a signal to potential venders that their wallet was bursting.
Ultimately, Liverpool stood firm while Dortmund did not, though there is little doubt that the Bundesliga side got the better end of the deal as they sold Dembele, who has barely featured due to a hamstring injury, for €105m plus bonuses.
In turn, that led to Dortmund going for Andriy Yarmolenko, though the Ukrainian’s trouble truly imposing himself after a promising start may prompt a further move this January. Certainly, having spent only €30m on the 28-year-old and struggling by their lofty standards in the league, the incentive to go back into the market is there.
Barcelona, meanwhile, are set to return for Coutinho and logic suggests that Liverpool cannot hold onto the 25-year-old former Inter player indefinitely in the face of such interest.
When he goes, he will command a giant fee, joining the elite but growing band of players to have been sold for more than €100m.
Jurgen Klopp will, of course, need to replace him, which seems likely to involve signing Thomas Lemar from Monaco. The France international will not command such a lavish sum of money, but the Anfield side will do well to sign him for much below €100m given that Arsenal had an offer of €70m rebuffed in the summer.
While the Gunners retain an interest, Liverpool will have the edge if they sell Coutinho due to the huge influx of transfer funds such a deal would create. Arsene Wenger’s men, therefore, stand primed to be collateral damage to some extent in the Neymar move, the influence of which has grown strands well beyond those that simply touch the two initial teams involved.
Monaco, of course, will need to recruit to replace Lemar and the cycle will go on and on down the footballing ladder.
It is inevitable that when large transfers are made that there is such a domino effect. Rarely are teams able to sell star players without replacing them externally, and in turn, this means they often pinch the outstanding figures from sides a rung below them.
To that end, the Neymar move has been a textbook example, driven by the massive fee that was paid for the 25-year-old but also the fact that Barcelona have been forced to play over the odds for their signings due to the very public nature of the Brazilian’s transfer fee.
As the transfer window opens, the ripples are only getting wider and by the end of the month, it will become clearer who the long-term winners and losers from the record-breaking deal will be.