One Year On: How Neymar's Transfer Has Changed Everything

Dean Jones@DeanJonesBRFootball Insider at Bleacher ReportAugust 3, 2018

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It was the world-record transfer that stunned football fans across the globe.

Neymar's £198 million ($263 million) move from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain 12 months ago was seen by the player as an opportunity to step out of Lionel Messi's shadow and become the best in the world.

On a wider scale, it blew the transfer market wide open, giving further financial strength to the clubs selling in-demand talent.

Before the Neymar deal, Paul Pogba had set the bar as football's most expensive transfer. In August 2016, he joined Manchester United from Juventus in an £89 million ($115.6 million) move. That fee barely seems significant two years on, as the impact of the Brazil international's extraordinary deal is felt far and wide.

As BBC News explained, you could buy three Boeing 737-700 passenger planes for the equivalent of one Neymar.

It's ridiculous money, a sum we may not see again in football for some time.

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What’s it like to get the world exclusive on a record-breaking transfer? @DeanJonesBR speaks to @marcelobechler: https://t.co/EZTdlsM8BW https://t.co/Khqh3NiapF

Marcelo Bechler was the journalist who broke the Neymar transfer story. His tweet on July 18, 2017, rocked the football world.

Bechler, a reporter for Brazilian outlet Esporte Interativo, stated the then-Barcelona man was ready to accept an offer to play for PSG and that in the coming weeks his £200 million ($260 million) release clause would be met.

The world watched and waited as the story escalated, and 17 days later, the Barca superstar was confirmed as a new player in Paris, pictured in his new No. 10 PSG shirt.

"I made a tweet, that's all," Bechler tells Bleacher Report, reflecting modestly on the biggest moment of his career. "Now everyone on Twitter always expects that I will break another piece of history like that transfer, but it was a very singular moment. Neymar had the clause, and PSG had the money."

Bechler does not feel it is too surprising that such a large sum of money was laid out to land one of the game's biggest names.

"If we look from a market point of view, you can see that what is a huge transfer today maybe does not seem that big in two or three years' time," he explains. "When Real Madrid paid €95 million for Cristiano Ronaldo or €100 million for Gareth Bale, everyone thought 'it's too much, they are crazy!'.

"But today you pay €80 million for someone like Alvaro Morata or Romelu Lukaku.

"Honestly, I think that it might be clever to buy before inflation comes along on these things, like PSG did with Neymar and [Kylian] Mbappe. Now, transfers are becoming much more expensive for everyone—but they have two world-class players signed up for four more years."

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The Neymar transfer changed the market for everyone—players, agents, clubs and backers. Suddenly nothing seems impossible, and when Mbappe signed for PSG weeks after Neymar's arrival, it became clear the elite game had changed forever.

Mbappe's initial loan from AS Monaco helped the club overcome financial fair play rules and has now progressed into a permanent £166 million ($216 million) transfer. It is just one of the knock-on effects that has occurred since Neymar moved to France: Owners of sought-after players now have reason to charge increasingly large sums.

Since Neymar put pen-to-paper on his contract in Ligue 1, there have been some eyebrow-raising deals.

Barcelona tried to fill the Neymar void by signing Ousmane Dembele from Borussia Dortmund for £96.7 million ($125 million) and, later, Philippe Coutinho from Liverpool for £106 million ($138 million).

Examples elsewhere show how Virgil van Dijk became the world's most expensive defender, switching from Southampton to Liverpool for £75 million ($97.4 million), and Aymeric Laporte joined Manchester City from Athletic Bilbao for £57.2 million ($74.3 million)—a Frenchman who had not yet represented his country.

Saif Rubie has been one of the Premier League's most influential agents and businessmen, brokering deals and advising players on their careers. He gave B/R his insight into the Neymar effect.

"We have to remember that Neymar is at the very highest level," he said. "Personally I think around £150 million would have been more appropriate, but of course there are also commercial implications that come with transfers such as Neymar. So if you are PSG, you are sponsored by Nike, and Neymar is also sponsored by Nike. That becomes a big part of the discussion when you negotiate. In situations like that, the player himself of course has extra power too.

"But these are top-end deals, the players in the top one percent. And Neymar also had a buyout clause, which was very important to making that transfer happen.

"What deals like this do is push up the values elsewhere in the market. A player who would have previously commanded a fee in the region of £30 million-£40 million suddenly becomes a £60 million, £70 million or £80 million player.

"If you have a player who has just had a great season, then it would make sense that you now make the most of that."

As the face of PSG, Neymar gives the club and business a new level of global recognition.

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Neymar admits he's 'not proud' to have cost PSG £198m as Brazil captain suggests his true value is lower https://t.co/FeiQvB0DDF

On the back of his transfer, there was plenty of focus on shirt sales. According to MailOnline, 120,000 Neymar PSG jerseys were sold in the 30 days that followed his switch—raising £7.8 million ($10.1 million).

Such figures seem a good way of reading whether a transfer has catapulted a brand further into greater public consumption but cannot necessarily be used to prove long-term value.

"It'll take a long time to figure out the return on investment," insists Dan Plumley, senior lecturer in sports business management at Sheffield Hallam University. "It might take three, four, even five years to know the true value of having him as part of the brand. On the pitch, there are obvious ways to see how he has contributed to prize money, but overall it will take longer to determine."

It was a good first year for Neymar on the pitch, scoring 28 times and making 16 assists from 30 matches in all competitions. PSG won the Ligue 1 title, as well as the Coupe de France and Coupe de la Ligue.

Commercial value may be hard to judge, but one thing that is more easy to monitor is social media numbers, which can measure how influence and business is growing.

Across Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, PSG's followers at the end of the 2016/17 season totalled 38.1 million. That figure soared by 5.3 million ahead of Neymar signing his new contract, according to Ehsen Shah for City A.M.

Now, 12 months on from the transfer, it is apparent from the figures on PSG's accounts that followers have soared by a further 11.8 million across the three social media platforms.

Take into consideration also that Neymar has a personal following of 165 million and his reach to fans, businesses and consumers across the world becomes hugely significant.

"At domestic level, PSG have been very successful, but we know they want to be more dominant on the European stage and that they still target success in the Champions League," explains Plumley. "And by bringing in a superstar like Neymar, you also help reach parts of the global football audience that had been out of reach before."

In his home country, the impact of Neymar's decision to move from Barcelona to PSG has not had so much impact.

Journalist Ewan MacKenna lives in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, and became a go-to figure at the time of the transfer, as radio stations and newspapers sought any insight they could into Neymar's world.

While the European scene has become more awestruck by the nature of his move with every ball that hits the net, people in his homeland are less attached.

"When someone like Neymar joins PSG from Barcelona, people in Europe generally think of it as a move down and ask 'Where is his ambition?'," says MacKenna. "But in Brazil people are more likely to think it's a good move. They see it as a kid from outside Santos who is over there making millions.

"Beyond Barcelona and Real Madrid, though, people in Brazil aren't close followers of what goes on in Europe. They tend to watch the Champions League once it gets to the semi-final stages, and you can watch PSG games here too—but they are advertised as ‘Neymar and Cavani live in action' rather than advertising the teams.

"Satellite TV has all the games that go on in Europe, but most people don't have satellite TV here. They are far more interested in Brazilian games and supporting their local side."

Nelson Antoine/Associated Press

McKenna adds: "Where I'm from in Brazil, if 50 people were to walk past in jerseys, then 25 would probably be Cruzeiro, 24 would be Atletico Mineiro, and the other one might be Ronaldo, Neymar or Messi."

Perhaps the only time Brazil really took notice of Neymar's PSG career was in January, when he suffered a foot injury in February and was forced to head back to Belo Horizonte as part of his early recovery.

"I actually went past the hospital he was in and there were many, many people outside," explains MacKenna. "But the thing on everyone's mind was: 'Will he be fit in time for the World Cup?' No one cared about PSG or how it may affect them."

So where does the market move on from here? Who's next to break the world-record transfer fee? It could be that Neymar is involved again.

Over the past year, he has been consistently linked with a move to Real Madrid, and in July, Los Blancos were forced to refute claims they had lodged a €302 million ($350 million) offer for the player, as claimed in a Spanish television report.

With Ronaldo recently leaving the Santiago Bernabeu to join Juventus for £99.2 million ($129 million), a space for a Galactico signing has opened up.

And if it isn't Neymar who takes the spot, it will likely be another stellar attacker Real Madrid splash out on. Mbappe and Chelsea's Eden Hazard are candidates, with the London club reported to have put a £200 million price tag on the head of their star man, per Matt Hughes of The Times.

Plumley said: "Neymar's transfer caught everyone by surprise and the fee inflated the middle-range transfers. But the top talent still seem around the same level as they would have been before. Look at Ronaldo, he still moved for around that £100 million mark in this current window. Whether we see another £200 million player anytime soon? I'm not so sure.

"It's interesting to see that Chelsea put a value of £200 million on Hazard—but the reason for that will be that Neymar has moved for that amount.

"At the end of the day, it will come down to supply and demand. How desperate are Real Madrid to sign that player and can they get the funds?

"If they can, maybe we will see such a deal again. Maybe it will happen."