PSG hope Neymar is the last ingredient in recipe for European glory
The French side believe the Brazilian will take them to the next level and beyond
“Dream Bigger.” That is the vision for Paris Saint-Germain, the club’s motto. When Zlatan Ibrahimovic arrived in 2012, he and his ego burst on to the scene to huge fanfare and played a significant part in that quest for more. He brought the club back to the top of French football and Ibra, just by being Ibra, ensured global eyeballs on PSG. The plan, however, was always bigger and better. Although Ibra does not want to hear that.
Since the Qatari royal family took over the club in summer 2011, via QSI (Qatar Sports Investments), their aim has been to secure the best of the best for their project. They have spent an estimated €1.5bn so far. Ibrahimovic, who joined from Milan, was not far from the best, just not the crème de la crème for which they were yearning.
So the club pursued the best. Lionel Messi first, courting his father, who looks after his affairs. Then it was Cristiano Ronaldo’s turn. Jorge Mendes, his agent, has a strong relationship with Nasser al-Khelaifi, PSG’s chairman, but it came to nothing. And then there was Neymar. At 25 he is the most valuable of the three superstars of world football and PSG, sensing the opportunity, fast made him their target. Last summer Paris were very close to signing him but he decided to stay at Barcelona. The contact between Khelaifi and Neymar Sr, the player’s father and adviser, did not cease however and the opportunity came around again this summer.
When Neymar Sr called PSG to tell them his son was ready to leave Barcelona for Paris, the dream was becoming a reality. Three weeks on, after Barcelona confirmed on Thursday they had received payment for Neymar’s £198m (€222m) release clause, the Brazilian superstar was announced as a PSG player, on a £26m-a-year net salary. Finally, the club has its man.
Ibrahimovic was only the entrée. Neymar is the main dish, the cheese plate and dessert.
PSG believe he is the last piece in the puzzle that will lead them to Champions League glory. In 2011, they had a five-year plan to get to the top of Europe. They quickly realised that Ibra and co were a touch too short of talent and experience to get there. Neymar and Dani Alves, the other key signing this summer, are designed to provide the missing links.
Here begins another five-year project. With Neymar at the helm, combined with the experience of Thiago Silva, Thiago Motta and Alves, the youth and talent of Marco Verratti and Marquinhos, the energy of Ángel Di María and with Edinson Cavani in the form of his life, PSG believe they can win the Champions League in the next few years.
Neymar is there to take the team and club to the next level; to catapult PSG into another dimension. Worldwide, their profile will reach new heights. Everybody will want to see Neymar and his new team. All eyes will be on Paris.
The club has done its maths with financial fair play (FFP) in mind. The Brazilian’s cost vastly outstrips anything the game has seen but PSG believe the extra revenue from his signing (shirts sales, TV rights and new sponsorship deals) will keep them on the right side of the regulations.
Neymar in Ligue 1 is also a huge boost for the French league. Aside from Marseille, PSG’s arch rivals, who heralded the news on the local newspaper’s front page with the headline “Neymar signs for PSG of Qatar” and the Lyon owner, Jean-Michel Aulas, who expressed disbelief over the numbers, everybody is excited. Bruno Génésio, the Lyon manager, said it would be “extraordinary for Ligue 1” to have Neymar. Even the French president, Emmanuel Macron, a Marseille fan, said on Thursday that Neymar’s arrival was “very good news” and was another sign of “France’s attractiveness”.
The Brazilian signals more money for all the clubs, more exposure, making them more attractive too. To compete with PSG, clubs such as Monaco, Marseille, Nice, Lyon and even Lille have attracted investment from abroad. They are recruiting better players and faring better in European competitions. PSG have created a great dynamic in France over the past six years and Neymar’s arrival will only increase it.
In many ways, this recruitment is a huge victory for French football and PSG, showing the world they are capable of poaching one of the world’s best players from a top club instead of losing their best players to them.
It is also a victory for the Qatar royal family. They have eventually achieved what they have been chasing for six years. They will not care too much about the criticism the deal is attracting. Barcelona and the Spanish league will start a crusade against PSG and the French club fears it could be spurned by Europe’s top clubs. If Qatar wanted to take all the glory, Neymar would have done his medical in Doha, as was planned at some point. Instead, the wealthy emirate let PSG, Paris and Neymar enjoy the spotlight, only too happy to take a step back and enjoy pulling off the transfer of the century – and daring to dream bigger.