After an underwhelming last season which saw the club knocked out of Europe by Barca in memorable fashion whilst surrendering the domestic title to Monaco, this was a crucial summer for PSG.
Last year, the club failed to replace its figurehead Zlatan Ibrahimovic with an equally notorious star. Instead, they turned to a bunch of average players (putting it kindly) to bulk up the squad with quantity rather than quality. Not a good plan.
As a fan, I was concerned. Was the big Qatar project winding down after years of excitement? Was someone in Doha getting a little bored of the shiny but not-so-new toy? The signing of Neymar for a world record £200m absolutely wipes all those doubts. Overnight.
This isn’t just about the transfer fee, which makes the Brazilian the biggest transfer ever. This is a turning point in European football, the uncomfortable point at which the continent’s established elite – Bayern, Juve and the Spanish giants to name a few – realise the extent of the threat posed by PSG to status quo.
The childish, petulant reaction of la Liga’s crooked president Javier Tebas to the transfer speaks volumes about its significance. Of course, the insane sums of money involved and the player’s motivations will be questioned in coming weeks, likely by observers and politicians who know little about football.
Just like any power shift, this won’t be met by sober curiosity and acceptance. This is especially true when it comes to football, a sport so conservative it purposely sat on goal-line technology for decades instead of embracing the common sense of modernity.
Neymar isn’t the club’s first high-profile signing since the 2011 QSI takeover. However, it is the first time one of the world’s greatest – only third behind the untouchables Ronaldo and Messi, I would argue – leaves a giant for Paris at his peak. Neymar is 25, Brazil’s captain and soon to be greatest ever goalscorer ahead of Pele and Ronaldo (1.0). He’s also one of the most marketable faces in the world.
Beckham brought spotlights to Paris before him when he joined aged 37, playing the odd 20 mins on one leg. It wasn’t the same. Even the signings of Ibra and Thiago Silva were regarded as two talented mercenaries chasing top money as they approached the twilight of their careers. Players likes Verratti, Lucas and Marquinhos are talents, but were signed as promising youngsters and are still not superstars.
So yeah, the Neymar thing is about money, but unless you’ve just woken up from a 40 year coma you’ll know this is how modern football works. Neymar is big financially, symbolically, commercially. You name it.
Most crucially though, he is the player who alone was the difference between Paris and Barcelona in last year’s Champions League quarter final, scoring 2 goals and delivering 2 assist to make an unbelievable comeback into reality. Here’s to the next pages of football history he’ll write in Paris.