John Aldridge: Neymar's transfer to PSG confirms that football has lost its soul
IT would be very easy to fall out of love with football right now.
While I will always be passionate about Liverpool and will feel that tingle of excitement when the new Premier League season gets underway next weekend, the €222m transfer of Neymar from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain confirms once and for all that our sport has lost its soul.
Football became a business long ago, but this Neymar deal has taken that unpleasant reality to a whole new level.
Why on earth would any player want to swap Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain?
In addition, how can any football club justify paying such a ridiculous amount of money to make a transfer happen?
Well, I guess we should be immune to being surprised by anything that happens in the game in an era when money, money and more money is all that matters to clubs, players and their agents.
I’m sure Barcelona didn’t believe anyone would consider paying the €222m release clause in Neymar’s contract when it was drawn up, but this move to PSG reminds us that footballers are no longer seen as sportsman who can win matches on the field.
PSG are buying Neymar the brand, the social media king, the talisman who can shift shirts by the millions across South America.
The fact that he is a half decent player and will win a few matches for PSG in a pretty average French league is almost irrelevant to what he will be expected to do as he sells his soul to the highest bidder.
It’s amazing to think that Neymar will probably earn more in a week that I earned in a year during my time as a Liverpool and imagine the kind of bonuses and signing on fees he will be getting for turning this fantasy transfer into a reality.
The biggest bonus I got during my career was the £125,000 I got when I guided little Tranmere to the 2000 Worthington Cup final against Martin O’Neill’s Leicester at Wembley.
I thought I’d made it when that cash came my way, so it is hard to believe that Neymar may well have earned that much by the time you get to the end of this article.
This is football in 2017 and I have to admit, I don’t like it too much.
There is so much Russian and Arab oil money washing around the game right now and for whatever reason these people have got into football, they are here to stay.
The traditions of the sport, not to mention the history that clubs like Liverpool, Manchester United, Real Madrid and Barcelona have built up over the last century counts for very little when this kind of crazy money is put on the table, with this Neymar deal confirming that literally any player in the game is up for sale if the price is right.
I’m sure Barcelona will not try to sign Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho and plenty more players with the money they have collected from Neymar’s departure, but I can’t get away from the reality that the whole thing leaves a very nasty taste in the mouth.
I fell in love with football because it was a simple game, played by working class lads and supported by people who you could quite happily go and have a pint with at the end of the day.
Now, footballers are locked away by their PR advisers and so many people are extracting money from the game at a time when it is flowing in from TV companies, billionaire investors and sponsors who cannot get enough of it all.
I remember the days when Liverpool had two or three sponsors and the players were expected to turn up and do the odd photo-shoot to give them a bit of publicity.
Well, if players were asked to do a photo-shoot for every sponsor at Liverpool or Manchester United now, they wouldn’t have time to play football as there are dozens of companies desperate for a piece of the football pie now.
I don’t know how long this financial boom can be sustained in football, but when you see a player moving for €222m, it confirms that anything is possible in a game that has been taken over by big business.
It is all very unpleasant and ugly, but this is what our sport can come to. What a shame.