- The Politics of Football – £200 Million Is Nothing
Former Barcelona winger Neymar recently transferred to PSG for approximately £200 million. Two hundred million pounds. He’s now paid £515,000 a week.
In a move previously seen only on my FIFA 17 career mode, the transfer understandably caused a global sporting shockwave. Football transfer fees were always ridiculous, but this was surely ungodly. Just why was so much money spent, and what does this mean for football?
Transfer fees have been rocketing since the birth of the Premier League, as has income from broadcasting deals with, largely Sky and BT. The attraction of a global football brand has never been so high. Such is the power of the media today that many of the most remote regions on Earth have heard of Manchester United and Real Madrid. By splashing £200 million for one of the best players in the world, PSG will hope to be added to this list. After the top division of English football’s transformation into the Premier League in 1992, and the game began to grow increasingly commercial with TV deals from Sky (more than it already was – A.C. Milan held the transfer record at £13m) British clubs started to be bought at a faster rate.
This had a clear knock-on effect, oil-rich billionaires everywhere realised the sheer excess of money there was to be had in football. Chelsea, Manchester City, Paris St. Germain, AS Monaco were all bought up in later years. The excessive wealth that came with this was completely unprecedented. With the sheer amount pumped in to be freely available for transfers and wages, they skyrocketed. These clubs, bought years apart, share a similar story upon their purchase. PSG for example, bought Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva, David Luis, Edison Cavani, Javier Pastore, Angel Di Maria and now Neymar, amongst many other big names. The likes of Robinho, David Silva, Yaya Toure, and Mario Balotelli (remember him!) are accustomed to this influx of cash being spent so quickly.
As money poured into football and the brands became bigger, so too did the massive sporting events. It was now not just the money involved in the likes of the El Clásico that was a global, financially indulged event watched by hundreds of millions, it was PSG vs Monaco, Chelsea vs Manchester City and so on. An increasing interest was put on the Premier League above all else, if not the best (in my view) then certainly the most marketable, a league dominated by foreign players.
Yet even so, the Premier League’s broadcasting deals in 2015 still sent shockwaves around the globe, financial and sporting. Television rights to its games were sold for a whopping £5.14 billion. Or 25 Neymars. In 3 years, the price at which they were able to sell TV rights had risen by 71%. Per match, the Premier League rakes in £10.19 million from Sky and BT. Transfer fees paid by Premier League clubs faced a dramatic change.
Everton suddenly had the financial firepower to buy Romelu Lukaku for £28 million, even in anticipation of the TV deal before it had happened; they knew they could afford the outlay long-term. As it turned out, in a post-TV deal world, this amount is peanuts. £28m in today’s market would buy you an average player, at best a 29-year old Jonny Evans from my beloved West Brom.
Everton showed this astonishing rise in fees from the TV deal, selling Romelu Lukaku for an initial £75m, rising to £90m, just 3 years later, to Manchester United. When looking at his potential to be as effective as Neymar is now in front of goal in 5-10 years, even this did not raise any eyebrows, it even seems like a bargain, saving £122 million. It is our lack of surprise at these meteoric deals that is so incredible.
The Premier League’s lavish spending blew up the global transfer market. The English top division is renowned for its lack of trust in homegrown talent, and as such, splashing £25-35 million for an average French, German, Spanish or Italian player became commonplace amongst the top English clubs. The Premier League has got to the stage where Liverpool can comfortably refuse £114 million for Phillip Coutinho, a potential Neymar replacement for Barcelona, because replacing him would probably cost more than that.
In the future, who knows? At its current rate, a £500 million player soon? A billion pound player? The graph of transfer fees and wages keeps going up, yet realistically in the next 5-10 years it will reach its peak. It’s still on the rise, though. It isn’t unreasonable to assume that the highest amount of money transferred will be in excess of £500 million. As much as I despise this ludicrous system, if the mighty West Brom were bought by an Arab billionaire and set about creating a £500 million team of superstars (Man City, PSG, AS Monaco etc), I wouldn’t complain.
Not least because I’m a fan of the team, but when someone asks what a player is worth, it must be placed in context of the global transfer market. Is Neymar worth the £450 million PSG will pay for him in transfer fees and wages? No, of course he isn’t.
Hell, if you’re talking about money in its usual sense, no player on Earth is even worth £1 million. But the outrage of some is unfounded. Yes, it’s stupid, but it’s rich kids playing with their money. It’s not public money. If footballers weren’t excessively overpaid, we wouldn’t have more money for the NHS. I’d rather foreign billionaires invest in Manchester or Liverpool, boosting their economy and contributing to British culture than buy up empty properties in Kensington only to keep them empty. I’d rather Qatari owners buy Neymar than a business in their own country, exploiting workers in often horrific conditions. The money in football is ridiculous. But the inflated market is the reason for this stupidity. Inflation has caused football transfer fees to lose value. £200 million is nothing.
To see how much Neymar earns in real-time, see this helpful ticker.