Twilight of a new era in global soccer business

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Video grab of Neymar in action

The extraordinary event of the US$262 million Neymar Jr deal to French giant Paris St Germain has turned the world of football upside down.

But it has also turned the world of the business of football inside out.

And it happened at a moment when the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is struggling with a terrorist sanction on Qatar, one of the smallest but also one of the richest Arab nations on earth.

And this is the incredible axis that has developed in Football since the famous moment in 2010 when Qatar, of all countries in the FIFA stable, was appointed as host for the 2022 World Cup.

The decision brought the ire of many in the Western world, with the disappointed lot campaigning against the elevated heat in Qatar, claiming it will literally kill European footballers in particular.

Then came the Russian doping scandal that almost caused the pullback of the 2018 World Cup away from Moscow’s grip.

One cannot forget the FIFA scandal altogether, that led to the cleaning up of the leadership of the most prestigious and most powerful sports association on the globe.

It can be said that the FIFA scandal broke after Russia and Qatar were both chosen for the next two world cup editions, but that would be politically incorrect.

Nevertheless, the game of football will never be the same again.

An important element following the Neymar deal is that it has altogether increased the value of the PSG team to US$1.75 billion. That would mean an increase of US$909 million over Forbes’ valuation published in June.

The dust of the Neymar chatter has barely settled that PSG is now talking of yet another transfer that will be slightly below the Brazilian’s transfer fee.

The French giants are ready to spend another £162 million to land Monaco’s teenage sensation Kylian Mbappe, and that will be plenty of cash in Monaco’s coffers, said The Sun.

This will be an unexpected windfall for a team that is playing – along with the PSG – in one of the poorest league on the continent.

The deal, if it goes through, will not only transform the business dealings that happens behind the scene in the football arena, it will also put French football in another era.

Monaco will be able to strengthen its team with new players to show off a new might in French football and that may altogether alter the rather established hierarchy in European football.

The dream season for PSG started in 2011 when tiny Qatar rolled out its financial clout through the Qatar Sports Investments taking over the club with the aim of turning its fortunes around.

Since then, PSG  spent several hundred million dollars on top-class players, including Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Marco Verratti, and Edinson Cavani.

The idea was to win trophies, indeed, and the only European club to have won all four national titles (Ligue 1, French Cup, French League Cup and French Super Cup) in a single season (2014–15 and 2015–16). But all in its effort to build a team capable of winning Europe’s top club competition failed.

The big names were not enough to bring success on the continental stage, and the Qatari owners – with the Saudi Arabian sanctions looming on them – decided to cough out the biggest sums of all equations to mop-up the most dedicated footballers on the planet.

PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi said Neymar Jr is today one of the very best players in world football and in six years of building a very ambitious project that has already taken the club to the highest level of national and European football, Neymar’s arrival will make the realisation of these dreams even closer.

With Neymar scoring the first goal for PSG this weekend, he is not only living up to the standards expected out of a nine-figure deal but he is giving breath to massive spending in the most beautiful game.

Video grab of Neymar in action

Qatar’s foray into international football business may have actually started In the small town of Eupen, which sits just to the east of Liege, and where the locals speak German. The town then added a new feature to its lacklustre outlook: It saw the arrival of Arabic speaking men on one June day in 2012.

They came as the representatives of the Aspire Zone Foundation, which was established in Africa in 2002.

The foundation is responsible for the promotion of amateur and elite sport in Qatar, and they had decided it would buy a club in Belgium.

The foundation’s “Aspire Football Dreams” program has screened more than 3.5 million young players in 17 developing countries, with 18-20 football scholarships awarded each year – attending the Aspire Academy in Doha, where they receive a private education, coaching, and medical support while playing international friendly matches.

All that was missing was the chance to play competitively. Aspire needed a football club and KAS Eupen ticked all the boxes, said Deutsche Welle.

Amid all flurry of praise and criticism on the Neymar signing, PSG chief Al-Khelaifi dismissed worries about financial fair play saying “Those “thinking about FFP I tell them … go have a coffee and don’t worry about us, we are in good hands. Thank you.”

And Twitter was given its fair share in the new era of soccer.

Kazi is the business editor for Malay Mail

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