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Neymar move makes little business sense but could spark transfer scramble

Brazilian soccer player Neymar drives to arrive to Joan Gamper training camp near Barcelona, Spain, August 2, 2017. REUTERS/Stringer
Brazilian soccer player Neymar drives to arrive to Joan Gamper training camp near Barcelona, Spain, August 2, 2017. REUTERS/Stringer

By Simon Evans

MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - Brazil striker Neymar's world-record move to Paris St Germain makes little business sense for the French club and could have its roots in Qatar's political situation, experts have said.

The Qatari-owned PSG paid 222 million euros ($263 million) to take the Brazil striker from Barcelona to the French capital in a move that also appears to make little sense for the player from a footballing perspective.

The jaw-dropping deal is the first time that a world record transfer fee has been doubled in one swoop with Paul Pogba's move last year from Juventus to Manchester United having set the previous benchmark at 105 million euros.

PSG activated a buy-out clause rather than a negotiate a typical transfer fee for Neymar and while fans of the French club will be delighted at signing one of the world's top players, the money invested in the Brazilian is unlikely to be recouped.

No amount of shirt or ticket sales can bring in the kind of money spent by PSG on activating the contract clause or on the Brazilian's huge wages, reported by French media to be around 550,000 euros per week.

"For the football club it doesn't make any business sense," football finance expert Rob Wilson of Sheffield Hallam University said.

"No matter how many different angles we look at this from I can't see how the football club can make any increase in revenue back that will be sufficient to cover the transfer fee, let alone the whole package. The sporting performance is a different matter but I can't see how they can get any decent return on the investment at all," he added.

Almost all of the previous world record fees have been for players moving to bigger or more successful clubs but in this case Neymar is joining a team with much less history and presence among soccer's elite.

Barcelona, 24-times Spanish champions and founded 117 years ago, are five-times European champions. PSG, created in 1970, have never even reached the final of the Champions League.

Yet PSG, owned by the state-backed Qatari Sports Investments, have been publicly stating their goal of conquering Europe since buying the club in 2012.

The club's heavy investment has been rewarded domestically with four straight French league titles, until last year when they finished second to Monaco.

POLITICAL STATEMENT

In Europe, however, success has been elusive. Last year they exited the Champions League in the round of 16 after giving up a 4-0 first-leg advantage by losing 6-1 to Barcelona at the Nou Camp with Neymar scoring two late goals.

The Brazil forward should improve PSG but whether he will be good enough to transform them into a squad that can beat the likes of Barca, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich is another question.

The fact that Qatar is currently embroiled in a diplomatic and economic dispute with four Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, raises the question of whether there is a political aspect to the deal, according to University of Salford professor Simon Chadwick.

Chadwick, who has closely followed Qatar's 'soft power' approach to sport, believes the massive interest in the deal could be well-timed for the Gulf state, which has been accused by its opponents of supporting Islamism, a charge Doha denies.

"Neymar’s PSG move, while beneficial to the French club, may be motivated by the political statement it makes and the soft power influence it is likely to have. At a time when the likes of Saudi Arabia want the world to be talking about Qatar in negative terms, Doha has become a focus for the biggest story of the year in the world’s favourite sport," he stated.

In more concrete terms for football fans, PSG's willingness to pay such a sum could well lead to a series of big-money deals across the continent.

Barcelona will quickly be under huge pressure from their fans to bring in a high-quality replacement and have been linked by Spanish media with another Brazilian, Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho.

The Anfield club will have no desire to sell their creative lynchpin, but Barcelona, flush with a huge amount of spare cash, could make an offer that would be hard to refuse.

Borussia Dortmund's French forward Ousmane Dembele is another player reported to have been on Barca's radar but the club's hierarchy might feel they need to bring in a bigger, more established name.

Wherever Barca turn for a replacement, will leave another club with a pile of money to spend on compensating for their own loss and with less than a month left before the transfer deadline, the deals could be lucrative.

(Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Toby Davis)

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