Neymar worth the money for Paris Saint-Germain?

PARIS, FRANCE - AUGUST 04: Neymar reacts during a press conference with Paris Saint-Germain President Nasser Al-Khelaifi on August 4, 2017 in Paris, France. Neymar signed a 5 year contract for 222 Million Euro. (Photo by Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - AUGUST 04: Neymar reacts during a press conference with Paris Saint-Germain President Nasser Al-Khelaifi on August 4, 2017 in Paris, France. Neymar signed a 5 year contract for 222 Million Euro. (Photo by Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images) /

Neymar may legitimately have to become the greatest footballer of his generation to be worth the millions of dollars Paris Saint-Germain paid for him.

The perception that professional athletes are overpaid is neither new nor accurate. Television contracts worth billions — yes, billions — of dollars are commonplace in today’s market, and there’s no reason to believe those values won’t rise as it pertains to competitions such as the Champions League, Premier League, La Liga, Serie A and Ligue 1. In reality, one could easily argue the most recognized footballers in the world are worth even more cash than they’re paid by clubs.

All of that said, observers and supporters around the world couldn’t help but cringe, even a little, upon learning Paris Saint-Germain spent roughly €222/$263 million for Neymar, the 25-year-old superstar who helped Barcelona win every possible title and who has been as good as advertised since completing the move to Europe in the summer of 2013.

Neymar’s talent and marketability are undeniable, and he isn’t yet in his physical prime as an athlete or footballer. His on-the-ball skills are seemingly out of a video game, he has only grown in confidence over the past several seasons, and he is seemingly on his way to replacing Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo on any list of the best players on the planet.

Still: $263 million? That’s a difficult sum for many to swallow, particularly when you consider what one could purchase with those funds instead of a single player. A person or group could buy 2.63 Major League Soccer teams with $263 million. Smaller clubs around the world could be sustained for years with less than that amount. It’s roughly $100 million more than the salary cap set for the 2017 National Football League season.

That $263 million isn’t even counting what PSG will pay Neymar. Per Christina Settimi of Forbes, the club signed him to a five-year deal worth “$350 million in salary and bonus before-tax.” To compare, Cleveland Cavaliers star and three-time champion LeBron James has earned slightly over $200 million from team contracts during his career according to Spotrac.

Neymar’s overall worth to PSG won’t be measured in league victories and defeats. After all, the club won domestic honors four seasons in a row until Monaco surprisingly finished atop the Ligue 1 table last spring. PSG could’ve splashed half the money they spent on Neymar to bolster the current squad and cement themselves as the kings of France for the remainders of the decade.

Would PSG have pursued Neymar if the club didn’t choke away a 4-0 advantage to Barcelona in last season’s Champions League? We’ll probably never know, for sure. A different result likely wouldn’t have changed Neymar’s mind about forging his own legacy or caused his camp/his father to not pursue a record transfer worth a boatload of money. Maybe, though, PSG’s willingness to spend a fortune on one talent wouldn’t have existed had they knocked Barcelona off as most expected following the first leg.

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It’s silly, of course, for anybody to believe PSG signing Neymar is about winning titles or even becoming the best team in the world. Well before the ink dried on the contract, PSG acquired a celebrity and one of the most marketable individuals in all of sports. It’s no coincidence New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., one of the faces of the NFL, rocked a PSG kit to training camp earlier this summer.

Barcelona, Real Madrid and Manchester United are three of the biggest entities in the sports world all on their own. They don’t require a Neymar to sell merchandise or be featured on television stations across the globe. The same can’t be said about PSG regardless of the club’s rich owners. Even passionate football followers would struggle to name more than a few players in the current PSG team.

PSG are surely hoping Neymar changes all that. Imagine, if you will, Neymar breaking down a backline with scintillating dribbling skills before scoring a world-class winner late in a Champions League Final. That, and the subsequent worldwide bandwagon-jumping that would follow, is the dream for PSG.

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The uncertainty of the future makes determining Neymar’s actual worth to PSG an impossible task in August 2017. He’ll have been worth every cent if PSG become a household name in places that otherwise ignored Ligue 1 only a year ago after the club wins multiple Champions League crowns. It’s an endeavor unlike any other ever before presented to a footballer, one who must do much more than score goals or hoist trophies for his club.