Money talks, Neymar walks

In football, a club owner will sign a cheque for more money than the projected gross domestic product of the Marshall Islands (US$188 million or S$256 million) and Tuvalu (US$36 million) added together, just to buy a player.

In football, that money is enough to make a player give up the thrill of playing alongside Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez. Which is precisely what happened in August when Neymar left Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) for a world record transfer fee of €222 million (S$355 million).

At Barcelona, the trio, who had been dubbed MSN (Messi-Suarez-Neymar), plundered a record 122 goals in all competitions as Barcelona swept the league, cup and Uefa Champions League titles in 2015.

But Neymar reportedly wanted more, he wanted to be the best in the world, not the second best at the Nou Camp. Eventually he didn't just get more, he shook the foundations of the sport.

Neymar's €222 million was more than twice the €105 million that Manchester United paid for Paul Pogba last year, the previous world record fee. Even though PSG has since agreed to pay €180 million for Monaco forward Kylian Mbappe and Barcelona has shelled out €145 million for Borussia Dortmund's Ousmane Dembele, several believe the Neymar transfer has shocked the football transfer system.

Former United coach Louis van Gaal called it "ridiculous" and a "reflection of the crazy world we live in".

It was crazy. For what he paid for Neymar, PSG club president and Qatari billionaire Nasser Al-Khelaifi could have owned four islands in the tropical paradise of the Bahamas (US$62 million each), three private Boeing jets (US$82.4 million each), or 300 of the most expensive HDB apartments ever sold (S$1.18 million).

It is hard to imagine that football will one day top this figure, but it's inevitable. Perhaps we won't even bat an eyelid if a club decided to activate Messi's €289 million release clause.


  • €222m
    Neymar (2017)
    Barcelona Paris Saint-Germain

    Kylian Mbappe (2017)
    Monaco Paris Saint-Germain

    Ousmane Dembele (2017)
    Borussia Dortmund Barcelona

    Paul Pogba (2016)
    Juventus Manchester United

    Gareth Bale (2013)
    Tottenham Hotspur Real Madrid

* Deal to be completed in 2018.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 22, 2017, with the headline Money talks, Neymar walks. Subscribe