Football has its first €200m player.
Brazilian superstar Neymar’s imminent move from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain will see that threshold crossed for the first time - and Arsene Wenger is not surprised.
The boss remembers when Trevor Francis became the first £1m player when he joined Nottingham Forest from Birmingham City in 1979 and, for Wenger, Neymar’s move demonstrates just how much the sport has evolved.
“For me, it is the consequence of the ownerships and that has completely changed the whole landscape of football in the last 15 years,” he said.
“Once a country owns a club, everything is possible. It becomes very difficult to respect the financial fair play because you can have different ways or different interests for a country to have such a big player to represent a country. It can’t justify the investments and looks unusual for the game. That’s why I always [support] football living with its own resources.
“Apart from that, we are not in a period anymore where you think, in some places, ‘If I invest that, I will get that back’. We are beyond that. The number today involves a lot of passion, pride, public interest and you cannot rationalise that anymore.
“It also looks like the inflation is accelerating. We crossed the €100m line last year and, only one year later, we’re crossing the €200m line. When you think that Trevor Francis was the first £1m player and that looked unreasonable, that shows you how much distance and how far we have come, how big football has become. It’s beyond calculation and beyond rationality.”
Paul Pogba’s move to the Premier League sent shockwaves around football last summer but Neymar’s transfer has smashed the world record fee that Manchester United paid. Wenger thinks there will be a knock-on effect.
“It will have implications because of the consequences it will provoke,” he said. “The clubs, when Barcelona will want to buy a player, will say, ‘My friends, you have €250m, so €220m is in your pocket’. What costs €50m today will cost €100m for them.
“We still live with rationality,” added the boss. “We are not the only ones. I think 99 per cent of the clubs do that but of course we cannot compete at that level.”
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