Today Neymar will complete his move to Paris St Germain, and he will become the most expensive footballer in the world, the highest paid and the poster boy for where the game has gone in recent years and where it will be going in the future.
Hey, first up, I don’t like the guy and I never have.
He’s the kind of footballer you would pay to go and see, but he’s also the kind of individual you would happily queue up to beat with a rubber hose.
He’s a moaning, diving, cheating like S.O.B.
It’s fitting that his grasping fingers are at the centre of this crazy, crazy story.
Football is insane.
Football finance doesn’t just defy gravity, it defies rationality.
We can’t compete with insanity, and we shouldn’t even try.
Most of us are old enough to remember the days when Alan Shearer going to Newcastle for £15 million seemed ridiculous.
That was in 1996. We’re twenty years on from there. In today’s money that would be £25 million, but Kyle Walker recently signed for Manchester City for twice that and if anyone thinks he’s worth that kind of money I have a bridge to sell them.
And yes, I do get a perverse sort of joy out of hearing English club managers and chairmen squeal like pigs about how this “distorts the market.” They were saying the same things during the January window when clubs from China were trying to poach their players.
The English Premier League invented the distorted marketplace.
They pioneered this lunacy.
When Manchester United signed Paul Pogba last year, smashing the £100 million barrier, if there were complaints from across Europe about how it had screwed up the transfer market for everyone else I didn’t hear them. Maybe because the media here is so in love with the sound of the cash registers ringing that it barely hears the squeaks from the less fortunate.
English football’s problem with this deal is that someone has proved able to do lunacy better, sexier, in a way they couldn’t manage. Top EPL clubs spent the better part of the last two years trying to convince Neymar that a move to their league was his next career choice.
As long as he was at Barcelona they could kid themselves that what was keeping him out of reach was that no player would ever conceive of leaving the world’s biggest and flashiest club … but that falls short when you see him move to France.
This also threatens the EPL’s gilded status as a Big Four league.
Ligue 1 is fast catching up with them in terms of the co-efficient.
Monaca dealt with City last year with a measured ease that was more like watching ballet dancing than football and PSG have long been one of the teams their so-called Big Beasts wanted to avoid. With the Brazilian now in their ranks I don’t see that prospect looking any brighter or more palatable.
But if the picture is grim for the EPL, a league just beginning to see that all the money in the world won’t make Hull as desirable a city as Bordeaux, Venice or Santander far less Paris, Milan or Madrid, it looks all the darker for the rest of us.
Glasgow, let’s face it, could barely compete with Hull in the desirability stakes, but at least we had lochs and golf courses and two for one nights at Victoria’s to sweeten the deal. But the money on offer elsewhere in Europe covers a multitude of sins, and we’re being badly, severely, outgunned on that score.
Neymar will net himself a salary that will secure him more wages in a day than the best SPL footballer will take home in a week. I know Scott Brown can’t do a tenth with a football what Neymar can, and that by the standards of a humble blogger he’s absurdly wealthy, but try to picture getting up every day some £30,000 richer than the day before. That might make even the most well-adjusted person lose their mind. You’ve seen what it’s done to Donald Trump.
Cyndi Lauper wasn’t kidding when she sang “money changes everything” but in many cases all you’re actually doing is sprinkling gold dust on a turd. Kyle Walker isn’t a £50 million player in his life. This deal will further inflate an already crazy market. Even mediocre players go for huge sums these days and unless you can afford to take a multi-million pound punt you need to be very good or very lucky and this is why England’s bitching is all the harder to stomach; they brought this curse on all of us.
Many of us believe the EPL TV model is a bubble just waiting to burst. It has before. There was a time when Serie A set the trends around Europe because TV money had made it the sexiest league in the game. That star faded, and left bankruptcy and disgrace behind. The German football market was inflated, for years, by TV deals which made no sense. They collapsed and the game nearly went with it. Scottish football had its own brief flirtation with madness, and the comedown for that was like going from soaring on quality coke of an evening to shaking in a corner with a pounding headache the following morning.
Yet even if the EPL bubble does burst, and there are times when you can’t imagine that it won’t, then I wonder how much benefit we’d actually draw from it.
The madness has spread beyond England’s shores now, and France has it bad, Germany is once again snorting it up with used fifty Euro notes, Italian clubs are suddenly rolling in dough again and don’t even get me started on Spain, who’s league body had some brass neck going to UEFA and demanding the implementation of FFP regulations over this deal, considering their own history of offering state aid to clubs.
UEFA, too, look as a toothless as a sixty year old Kazak hooker over this deal.
FFP? Pah! Was there any point to such a measure in the first place if they were going to allow so many loopholes and get-outs that a US health insurance contract would look solid by comparison? Big clubs have found dozens of ways around those pitiful regulations and here in Scotland one club has decided their course of action will be to ignore them completely.
The thing is, there’s no end to this now.
Football’s been consumed by this lunacy.
There’s no going back to the quaint old days when a £6 million fee bought you an England international; that’s finished with. Even mediocre footballers, the sort our club wouldn’t look twice at, are now out of our financial reach even if we wanted to try.
Neymar is the symbol of a sport which has completely lost its marbles.
Trying to “compete” at Champions League level means jumping into it with both feet and even if we had the money I wouldn’t want us to spend it on enriching greedy footballers like Neymar. These guys really do beg the question as to “how much is enough?”
Even talk of transfer caps and salary caps won ‘t end this, because the upper limit has already been set.
Until the next upper limit is.
And these people wonder why so many fans feel removed from the game?