Neymar has one foot out the door at Barcelona, with the club announcing on Wednesday that he could leave for Paris Saint-Germain if his release clause was met. But unfortunately for PSG, securing Neymar has not been as easy as showing up at La Liga’s offices and depositing the requisite €222 million. La Liga is furious that one of its biggest stars is heading to a competitor, and it’s pitching a fit about it.
La Liga president Javier Tebas said PSG’s money will not be accepted. “They cannot make a number in which their commercial rights are greater than those of Real Madrid and Barcelona,” Tebas said to journalists on Wednesday. “Nobody believes this.” On Thursday, he kept his word. PSG’s lawyers turned up with a check for €222 million and they were turned away.
PSG could end up in violation of Financial Fair Play over this deal, and Tebas says that’s why La Liga blocked this move. But that doesn’t make any sense, and you don’t have to dig too deep to figure out that Tebas is just grandstanding in a bid to protect his league’s brand as it loses a global superstar.
It doesn’t matter if PSG is violating FFP at this moment
FFP reporting years run from July 1 of one year to June 30 of the next. This means that PSG has 11 months to get their financial house in order to avoid violating Financial Fair Play. That’s a lot of time to figure out ways to add sponsors, sell players, cut salary, or do anything else that would prevent them from showing massive losses.
FFP violations are none of La Liga’s business
It makes no sense for La Liga to block Neymar’s transfer because it believes PSG to be in violation of FFP rules. It’s up to UEFA, the administrator of FFP rules, to decide whether or not PSG violates the rules. La Liga or one of its clubs engaging in a deal that leads to PSG violating FFP rules doesn’t expose the Spanish league or club to punishments because they sold the player that led to another club violating FFP.
If you go to a car dealership this weekend and attempt to buy a car with a duffel bag full of cash, the salesman is going to assume that you are involved in illicit activity. But guess what? They’re still going to sell you the car, because that’s not their problem.
There are a lot of ways for PSG to make up the losses incurred by signing Neymar
It’s really not that hard for PSG to make this work. Here’s a long list of ways to do it. A combination of these things will help them make up their losses.
- PSG kept wages and net spend reasonable last season
After Zlatan Ibrahimovic departed, PSG did not sign another star on his level. They also replaced David Luiz from within after selling him, promoting homegrown player Presnel Kimpembe. They kept their wage spend below what it had been in the previous two seasons, probably in anticipation of signing someone as expensive as Neymar a year later.
- PSG has a lot of players they can sell
One of Angel Di Maria or Lucas Moura is likely expendable, if not both. They could probably collect €100 million in transfer fees. Right back Serge Aurier and midfielder Blaise Matuidi have also been linked to moves away, with academy products Alec Georgen and Christopher Nkunku apparently ready for more playing time. PSG also has youngster Giovani Lo Celso preparing to replace Javier Pastore. If PSG got rid of all of these players, they’d already be most of the way toward making up for Neymar’s fee and wages.
- Get Nike to re-up... and maybe even convert the sponsorship to Jordan Brand?
Nike’s sponsorship of PSG doesn’t expire until 2022, but the arrival of Neymar — the second-biggest Nike-sponsored star after Cristiano Ronaldo — might make the company willing to renegotiate. Neymar is the only footballer with Jordan Brand shoes, so it wouldn’t be terribly surprising if Nike saw an opportunity to make PSG the first Jordan Brand-sponsored club. Estimating merchandise sales in the event of this switch would be next to impossible, but it’s fair to guess that they’d be enormous.
- Ligue 1’s international TV deal with beIN Sports is pretty sweet
If you’re wondering how it’s possible for PSG to make so much above the average, the terms of the league’s international broadcast deal have a clue — “any income earned over the guaranteed figure will be split evenly between the league and beIN Sports.” So it’s possible that beIN Sports is making a lot of money off advertising on Ligue 1 games, a disproportionate amount of that is on PSG games, and PSG is earning the bulk of that money. While we have no evidence or reason to believe that PSG is using beIN Sports to skirt FFP, we should note that Nasser Al-Khelaifi is the Chairman and CEO of both PSG and beIN Sports.
Which, you might say, proves Tebas’ point about financial doping. But UEFA hasn’t found anything fishy in this deal yet.
- There are lots of other unconventional ways to make money
A PSG TV paid subscription service? Club membership fees with a platinum tier worth tens of thousands of dollars? Cash-grab midseason friendlies? If PSG can dream it, they can make money off it now that they have Neymar.
- UEFA’s pretty lenient if you admit you screwed up and take steps to fix it
PSG could decide not to sell any of its players this season, then sell a bunch of players before June 30, then tell UEFA “hey, we screwed up, but here’s evidence we have a plan to make it right immediately.” UEFA might hit them with minimal sanctions or a fine, with a bigger punishment suspended for a year. Then PSG shows clean books for next season, and voila!, problem solved.
Tebas and Barcelona don’t have a leg to stand on. PSG cannot possibly violate FFP with one transfer in August, and even if they do, it’s none of La Liga’s business.