WHAT DO GLEN SALMON AND com­mon? NEY­MAR HAVE IN

Uefa’s in­tro­duc­tion of the Fair Play rule has not pre­vented ex­pen­sive trans­fers

CityPress - - Sport - PETER AUF DER HEYDE sports@city­press.co.za

When Uefa in­tro­duced the Fi­nan­cial Fair Play rule a few years ago, it did so in the hope that the al­ready un­even play­ing fields of Euro­pean club foot­ball would not be eroded fur­ther.

The €222 mil­lion (R3.5 bil­lion) trans­fer of Ney­mar Jr from Barcelona to French club Paris Saint-Ger­main (PSG) ear­lier this week would sug­gest that Europe’s foot­ball gov­ern­ing body has failed in its at­tempt at fair­ness.

When the rule was in­tro­duced in 2010, Uefa said that it was “about im­prov­ing the over­all fi­nan­cial health of Euro­pean club foot­ball”.

In terms of the rules, clubs could, over a three-year pe­riod, only spend €5 mil­lion more than they re­ceive. There is a pro­vi­sion that al­lows clubs to spend a fur­ther €30 mil­lion if the money comes di­rectly from the club own­ers.

In other words, to buy Ney­mar for €222 mil­lion, PSG would have to sell play­ers for €185 mil­lion. Trans­fer­markt.de value their en­tire squad at €584.65 mil­lion, so if they were to stick to the Fair Play rule, they would need to sell most of their squad.

How­ever, on Thurs­day, the club re­leased this state­ment: “Paris Saint-Ger­main is very happy to an­nounce the ar­rival of Ney­mar Jr to the team. On Thurs­day, the Brazil­ian striker signed a five-year con­tract in the pres­ence of the club’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives. Ney­mar Jr is now com­mit­ted to the French cap­i­tal’s club un­til June 30 2022.”

Need­less to say, PSG did not go into their first Ligue 1 match of the sea­son with Ney­mar and 10 un­known am­a­teur play­ers af­ter sell­ing their other star play­ers – Ju­lian Draxler, Án­gel Di María and Edin­son Ca­vani.

In­stead, they made use of a loop­hole. The Brazil­ian striker, who is said to be on a €45 mil­lion-per-year con­tract, paid the amount stip­u­lated in his buy­out clause him­self.

That, in it­self, is not un­com­mon. When for­mer Bafana player Glen Salmon joined Dutch club NAC Breda from Su­perS­port in 1999, the trans­fer was nearly scup­pered be­cause Dutch reg­u­la­tions stip­u­lated that for­eign­ers had to earn a cer­tain high wage, which Breda was un­will­ing to pay for the tal­ented striker.

To get around the prob­lem, the club in­flated Salmon’s salary and the young­ster paid his own trans­fer fee, thereby paving the way to a suc­cess­ful ca­reer in Euro­pean foot­ball that saw him play close to 200 matches in the Ere­di­visie. He also played in Greece and in the Uefa Cup.

A small dif­fer­ence

There is, how­ever, a not-so-slight dif­fer­ence, in that the money Salmon had to pay to Su­perS­port was peanuts com­pared with the €222 mil­lion Ney­mar paid.

And that, of course, begs the ques­tion: Where did the Brazil­ian get the money to be able to do that?

The an­swer is sim­ple – at the same time as he was ne­go­ti­at­ing with PSG, he was taken on board as an am­bas­sador for the 2022 Qatar World Cup, with a pay­ment that ex­ceeds the €222 mil­lion his lawyers paid di­rectly to Barcelona on Thurs­day, af­ter La Liga of­fi­cials ear­lier re­fused to ac­cept it.

The rea­son Qatar would do such a thing is ob­vi­ous – PSG is owned by the Qatar In­vest­ment Group.

So, in ef­fect, Ney­mar was of­fered as a “free” gift to the club by the club’s own­ers, but in a way that did not fall foul of the Fair Play rule.

Liver­pool man­ager Jür­gen Klopp was one of the first to crit­i­cise the trans­fer.

“It seems to me that Fair Play is more like a sug­ges­tion than a rule.

“But any club can buy a player for that money … if they are owned by a coun­try. I hope that this is not a sign of things to come, but it might be,” he said.

“At the mo­ment, there are two clubs in the world that can af­ford such a thing: PSG and Manch­ester City, and every­body knows who owns them. [City are owned by the Abu Dhabi United Group].”

Klopp is not the only one who has reser­va­tions about Ney­mar’s trans­fer. Barcelona, who stip­u­lated the €222 mil­lion buy-out clause be­cause they thought the amount was so high that it would not be paid, is­sued a rather frosty state­ment.

“On Thurs­day af­ter­noon, Ney­mar Jr’s le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tives, in per­son, vis­ited the club’s of­fices and made the pay­ment of €222 mil­lion in the player’s name with re­gards to the uni­lat­eral ter­mi­na­tion of the con­tract that united both par­ties.

“As such, the club will pass on to Uefa the de­tails of the above op­er­a­tion so that they can de­ter­mine the dis­ci­plinary re­spon­si­bil­i­ties that may arise from this case.”

It seems likely this is not the last word in the Ney­mar trans­fer saga, and it is now up to foot­ball’s gov­ern­ing bod­ies to find a way for­ward if they want the Fair Play rule to ac­tu­ally mean fair play.

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