All eyes on Neymar in Glasgow...with one remarkable statistic highlighting the gulf between Celtic and PSG
AS Neymar steps into the Celtic Park cauldron for his first Champions League game as a Paris Saint-Germain player on Tuesday night, the trial of the most expensive player in football history will begin in earnest.
Neymar didn’t just become the first footballer to cost a three figure sum when he moved from Barcelona to Paris for €222m, as his move also changed the face of the game for good.
Every transfer since Neymar’s extravagant move has been completed for an inflated price, with €50m the new starting price in negotiations for a left back boasting a proven track record of struggling to cross a ball.
Yet in the opinion of Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers, the player his side will come up against in the first Champions League Group B game will go down in the history books as a game-changer, whatever happens to him at PSG.
“The Neymar transfer changed football and takes it to an entirely different sphere,” declares Rodgers, ahead of one of the most eye-catching games in the first week of the Champions League.
“The figure PSG played for Neymar sets a new benchmark when we value players and you will see the impact of that for a long time.
“PSG have signed an incredible player, but the buy-out clause in his Barcelona contract was there not for someone to buy him, but rather to put teams off from trying to buy him.
“On this occasion, we saw something no-one expected and he is now a Paris Saint-Germain player. In football, the impossible can become possible and this is perhaps the greatest example of that.
“I’ve always been one where you pay for top players and go that extra mile to get that quality in, but €222m for a football player? No, for me that is obscene.
“Obviously, this is all a million miles away from what we are trying to achieve at Celtic, but I am fortunate to be at a great football club and we are looking forward to the challenge of taking on Neymar and PSG in this opening game.”
Remarkably, the top SEVENTY THREE transfers in the entire history of Celtic combined add up to the equivalent figure PSG paid to sign Neymar, with the financial package handed to the Brazilian ensuring the overall deal will cost the French club around €450m.
Neymar is believed to be earning close to €1 for every second of his five-year contract at PSG and now the time to start living up to his superstar billing has arrived.
We all know the primary reason why this transfer was too good for all parties involved to ignore, yet Neymar was keen to suggest that the financial windfall coming his was only part of the reason why he quit Barcelona for Paris.
He claims to have concluded that the only way he could emerge from the shadow of Lionel Messi to become the world’s best player - and possibly winning the Ballon d’Or - was to leave Barcelona and win the Champions League on his own terms.
PSG’s €180m acquisition of Kylian Mbappé alongside Neymar added to their firepower and if the ongoing moans and groans from the hierarchy at Barcelona and Real Madrid are any guidance, the French club’s Qatari owners are so much more than annoying pests on the horizon for Europe’s A-list clubs.
The Neymar factor has been pivotal in PSG being installed as second favourites to win the Champions League, yet Celtic boss Rodgers has a message for his players as they prepare to tackle a group that also features the might of German champions Bayern Munich.
“You cannot go into a challenge like this showing any fear,” he adds. “Our aim is to be competitive in the group and the only way we can do this is by showing belief in our ability to compete at this level.
“We lost 7-0 in the Champions League at Barcelona last season, but came back and produced some good performances later in the group and we want to improve on that.
“I will tell my players to embrace the challenge of taking on players like Neymar.
“We have earned the right to be in this competition and on the same pitch as these great players, so let’s enjoy it.”
Neymar will play his third Champions League game at Parkhead on Tuesday night and the moment has come for him to prove he is ready to succeed Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as the best footballer in the world.
The stakes in this story could not be higher.
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE ODDS
Real Madrid - 7/2
Paris Saint-Germain - 13/2
Bayern Munich - 7/1
Barcelona - 7/1
Manchester City - 10/1
Manchester United - 10/1
Chelsea - 14/1
Juventus - 14/1
Liverpool - 16/1
Tottenham - 35/1
Celtic - 150/1