AUGUST 5 ― Ever since Neymar became the most expensive footballer in history with a €222 million (more than RM1 billion) move to Paris St Germain from Barcelona, debate has been raging over whether he is worth it.
I think the answer is simple.
Neymar is worth every last cent of the enormous fee PSG have stumped up to bring him to France. In fact, he is a bargain. And this is why.
Contemporary elite football is a truly global phenomenon like nothing else. Wherever you go in the world, Neymar is famous. Maybe pop stars like Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber have the same kind of reach (although, for religious reasons, I doubt it) and maybe so do the biggest food and technology brands like Apple, Samsung, McDonald’s and Coke.
But nothing really captures the globe like football, as shown by the viewing figures for the 2014 World Cup Final: 3.2 billion, nearly half the population of the planet.
And Neymar, as the most glamorous and marketable talent in the world (yes, even more than Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo), is clearly big business. Very big business indeed.
Imagine one of PSG’s Champions League games, for instance.
One of the main sponsors of the competition, organised by European governing body Uefa, is the Japanese car manufacturer Nissan, which is believed to be paying at least €50 million per year for the privilege.
Nissan only makes this commitment for hard, cold, business reasons. Let’s imagine that when PSG play in the Champions League this season, attracting a massive TV audience simply because they have Neymar, 100 people somewhere in the world ― which is probably a wild underestimation ― are motivated to buy a new Nissan car because of the adverts they saw during the game.
A mid-range new Nissan will cost something like €20,000 (we’re using guesstimate figures here, which doesn’t really matter ― the point is more general than specific). So that means, whenever Neymar plays for PSG in the Champions League his worth to Nissan is 100 x 20,000, which equals 2 million Euros. For one game. For one sponsor.
Now assume that PSG get knocked out in the semi-finals in this season’s Champions League, which means they will play 12 games. And then recall that Nissan, for one game, will earn €2 million, meaning that over the full season they will earn (2x12) €24 million.
Let’s carry on. Uefa actually has eight sponsors for the Champions League, all of whom would expect to earn similar revenue from their partnership.
So we can surmise that based on these (admittedly completely unscientific) figures, Neymar is “worth” (24x8) €192 million per year to the sponsors of the Champions League. In other words, nearly his entire transfer fee, and that’s without even taking into account additional factors such as ticket and merchandise sales, corporate hospitality and television broadcasting revenue.
And that’s just for one competition, the Champions League, for one season. When you also add in the French league and two Cups, plus PSG’s pre-season tours, shirt sales and separate sponsorship deals, the question of whether Neymar is “worth” €222 million quickly becomes completely irrelevant.
One important caveat is to acknowledge that very few players possess Neymar’s pulling power: nobody, except his family and friends, will tune into the Champions League to see how Maksym Malyshev fares for Shakhtar Donetsk.
But many, many people (and I will be among them) definitely will go out of their way to watch Neymar in action for PSG. He will single-handedly make a significant difference to the viewing figures, in-stadia attendances and marketing value of his new club, and is therefore ― as our very basic economics have demonstrated ― easily worth the money they have paid for him.
If you’re not convinced, by the way, we can get political and note that PSG are owned by a branch of the Qatari government, which is currently embroiled in a vicious geopolitical dispute with many of its nearest neighbours in Arabia and needs all the good publicity it can get ― especially in the football arena, ahead of its hugely controversial hosting of the 2022 World Cup Finals.
As far as the Qatar government is concerned, €222 million is small change. It barely even registers. Earlier this year, for example, Qatar announced an investment worth €5.5 billion into UK infrastructure over the next five years.
That sum is nearly 25 times the amount the Qatari government, through its Parisian sporting arm, has just paid for Neymar. But it’s also just half the amount to be invested in American infrastructure, according to an announcement late last year.
Would you rather pay 1 dollar for full ownership of arguably the most marketable sportsman in the world, or 50 dollars for a small influence in a country run by Donald Trump?
You tell me which is the better investment. And then try to tell me Neymar isn’t “worth it.”
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.