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The story behind the Neymar transfer


It is very unusual for a football transfer story to make the front page of the Financial Times, but that applies to Neymar's transfer from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain at a total cost of £415m. It is more than twice the sum Manchester United paid for Paul Pogba last summer and two and a half times that paid to United by Real Madrid for Cristiano Ronaldo

Warwick University's Dr Dave Webber commented, 'It remains to be seen whether this is not a one-off but rather a starting gun for a new round of transfers that will break the 100 million euro mark amongst football's global, or rather European elite. If so, we are likely to see these clubs breakaway from the pack, with very profound consequences for competitiveness within domestic leagues and the grassroots game more broadly.'

This is not really a story about football or even about highly distorted market forces.   It is about geopolitics. Paris Saint-Germain is a state backed club and there are those who think that there is no place for such clubs in football.

The Qatari vision is about trying to win friends and influence people in a highly uncertain geopolitical climate, exemplified by the country's current quarrel with Saudi Arabia.   For a microstate with a population similar to Lithuania, Qatar has exerted an extraordinary influence over elite sport in the last decade, exemplified by its capture of the 2022 World Cup.

All of this has been based on a 'soft power' strategy of buying high profile sporting assets to build influence and spread a vision of their place in the world long after their oil reserves run out.

Uefa is going to investigate whether Paris Saint-Germain is compliant with its financial fair play rules, but it won't halt the impending move.