It’s really happening.
Paris Saint-Germain are set to pay Neymar’s €222 million ($262 million) release clause and bring the Brazilian maestro to the Parc des Princes.
This is by far the biggest transfer in soccer history, not just monetarily, but also in terms of profile and potential fallout.
If you’re new to how soccer transfers work, one team pays another for the rights to a player. In Neymar’s case, he had that release clause (an automatic amount of money that one team can pay another for a player) of $262 million inserted into his contract.
I’d imagine that when Barcelona gave him that release clause they laughed it off as ludicrous, but PSG and their billionaire owner Nasser Al-Khelaifi have come calling.
When this story broke earlier this summer, it seemed like wild speculation. Most people figured it was just some made up story leaked by Neymar’s agent to get a bigger contract out of Barcelona.
There was no way Neymar was going to leave one of the biggest clubs in the history of sports for a team in the significantly lower-profile French league just to get out of Messi’s shadow and get some more money.
I wrote last week that I didn’t think this transfer was actually going to happen, despite significant reports that Neymar’s interest had officially been piqued by PSG.
But here we are.
Today, Leo Messi posted an emotional farewell to Neymar on social media, seemingly confirming Neymar’s exit.
The message translated to:
“It was an enormous pleasure to have shared all these years with you friend Neymar,” Messi wrote, alongside a video montage of the pair’s highlights as team-mates and friends.
“I wish you luck in this new stage of your life. I love you.”
Neymar responded: “Thank you brother. I will miss you!”
Barcelona then released a statement that Neymar had officially informed the club of his intention to leave Barcelona for Paris:
“The player Neymar Jr, accompanied by his father and agent, has informed FC Barcelona this morning of his decision to leave the club in a meeting held at the club’s offices.
“Faced with this position, the club has informed them they refer to the buy-out clause of his existing contract which as of 1 July totals 222 million euros which will have to be deposited in its entirety… The player remains under contract at FC Barcelona but with temporary permission to not take part in training sessions.”
Barcelona aren’t letting Neymar leave until they receive the full €222 million up front, so technically this move isn’t official until PSG deliver that money.
European journalists are positioned to watch that money arrive at La Liga (the Spanish soccer league) offices.
Journalists waiting outside La Liga offices near Madrid airport for PSG to come and pay Neymar release clause. La Liga said would not accept
— Kaveh Solhekol (@SkyKaveh) August 2, 2017
Neymar adviser Wagner Ribeiro tells Sky Italy they've received proposal from PSG "today". Says PSG will pay release clause in next few hours
— Kaveh Solhekol (@SkyKaveh) August 2, 2017
Of course, you can’t really believe anything in European soccer until a player is holding up the jersey of his new team, but this is probably the biggest news in world soccer… maybe ever.
We won’t know the full impact of this transfer for quite sometime, but Neymar is the heir-apparent to Leo Messi as the greatest player in the world.
It was always pretty unfair that Leo Messi, Neymar, and the Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez were on the same front line for Barcelona.
The trio, known as MSN, was the greatest goalscoring force in the history of soccer.
Messi, Suárez & Neymar are the only trio ever to score 100+ goals in a season.
2014/15: 122 ⚽️
2015/16: 131 ⚽️
2016/17: 111 ⚽️
End of an era pic.twitter.com/OJPjtapgZ3
— Leo Messi (@messi10stats) August 2, 2017
Neymar, for his part, was the only player in a top European league with both 20 goals and 20 assists.
Moving to Paris is a risk for the Brazilian. Especially as Neymar led Barcelona’s miraculous comeback from 4 goals down in the Champions League quarterfinal last year… against PSG.
For PSG this is a franchise-defining transfer.
This signing will change how PSG are thought of around Europe. They are now the legitimate threat to win the Champions League that Al-Khelaifi and Qatar Sports Investments intended when they purchased the Parisian club in 2011.
It may indeed change the French league as well. Teams will somehow have to compete with the mega riches of PSG, a prospect that seems pretty damn daunting at this moment.
As for Barcelona, this throws their entire club into a bit of chaos.
Surely they will recover and buy a world class player to replace Neymar, and they still have Messi and Suarez, but Barcelona are in uncharted waters right now, having just lost the future of their club.
Perhaps Barca will shell out the cash for Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho or Dortmund’s Ousmane Dembele, but these players are nowhere near Neymar’s level.
The fact that the initial Neymar transfer from Santos to Barcelona in summer 2013 saw Barcelona’s former president Sandro Rosell arrested on corruption charges and the club barred from buying players for a period surely rubs salt in the wound of all of this.
Barcelona suffered as a club to bring Neymar to Catalunya and now he has chosen to leave.
The European soccer transfer window closes on August 31st and with a month left for teams to do business, the dominoes will start falling.
It’s going to be a wild ride as Barcelona attempt to replace Neymar. Shit is about to go down.