Rio Ferdinand believes that Manchester United missed a trick by not signing Neymar this summer after the Brazilian completed a world record £198m transfer to Paris Saint Germain earlier this month.
The Brazilian’s supposed interest in moving elsewhere begun soon after Lionel Messi was handed a new contract keeping him at the Camp Nou until 2021. No problem exists between the two, but Neymar wanted to be the top dog elsewhere and has previously voiced his admiration for the Premier League, alongside a desire to play there one day. Louis van Gaal reportedly made advances for the 25-year-old in 2015 but he decided to remain in Catalonia instead.
PSG chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi, backed by the financial muscle of the Qatar Investment Authority, soon took control of the deal after receiving initial hints from Neymar’s father that he would be open to a move. The club began working on not just activating his £198m release clause but also a seven figure signing on fee and a five year deal worth £500,000 a week – after tax. It was too good to turn down and the transfer went ahead, forever bending the geometrics of the growingly inflated transfer market.
But Ferdinand, speaking on his YouTube channel, has insisted that United could have put together a package of equal weight to bring Neymar to Old Trafford.
“Neymar’s up for £196m… Man United are one of the richest clubs in the world,” he said.
“I would have loved to have seen him go to Manchester United. Neymar in a red Man United shirt? Number 7, woah, or number 11. Dirty, it would have been dirty but it wasn’t to be.”
“When we paid that amount for Paul I told that he was not expensive,” he said earlier this month. “Expensive are the ones that get into a certain level without a certain quality.
“I think with Neymar it’s going to happen the same, I don’t think he’s expensive for 200million, I don’t think he’s expensive, I think he’s expensive the fact that now you are going to have more players of 100 million and you are going to have more players at 80 million and you are going to have more players at 60 million.
“And I think that’s the problem because Neymar is one of the best payers in the world, commercially he’s very strong and, for sure, Paris Saint-Germain thought about it, so I don’t think the problem is Neymar, I think the problem is the consequences.”
Theoretically speaking, perhaps United could have afforded Neymar. They were the first club to announced an annual turnover of over half a billion last year and, with the savvy Ed Woodward in charge of the branding side of things, continue to dominate the commercial sphere alongside the likes of Real Madrid.
That said, money alone didn’t push this transfer through. If you speak to any Barcelona fan about the state of their club they will immediately point a finger at the plutocracy, headed by Josep Bartomeu, running their club and the questionable links with Qatar that gave Al-Khelaifi a strong foothold in this transfer. Paulinho’s move to Barcelona, according to some, is partly grounded in third party interests involving China. The perfidiousness of this Barcelona board, elected on the back of Luis Enrique winning the treble in 2015, is slowly but surely ripping the soul out of this once great club. Supporters have noted to me that if it isn’t obvious now, it will be soon enough.
Put simply, the seeds for this transfer were sown a long time ago, giving no other club a realistic chance of signing the Brazilian.