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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 14 December 2018

Neymar no greedy guts despite record move to PSG

Data shows football player wages have held steady as a percentage of club revenue in the past decade

The Eiffel Tower is illuminated in red and blue (the colours of the Paris Saint-Germain football team) to celebrate the arrival of the Brazilian striker Neymar.  Christophe Petit Tesson / EPA
The Eiffel Tower is illuminated in red and blue (the colours of the Paris Saint-Germain football team) to celebrate the arrival of the Brazilian striker Neymar. Christophe Petit Tesson / EPA

The Brazilian football star Neymar is a wisp of a player who confounds defenders with sudden acceleration and trickery instead of power.

Yet the 25-year-old is on the verge of signing a heavyweight contract to move from Barcelona FC to Paris Saint-Germain.

All in, PSG could end up paying €400 million (Dh1.73bn) to €500m, once a gargantuan buyout clause, agent fees and taxes are taken into account.

Such vast sums will spur hand-wringing about greedy players and rapacious clubs ruining the beautiful game. But a closer look at the data shows that player wages have held pretty steady as a percentage of club revenue in the past decade.

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Read more:

Ian Hawkey: Paris Saint-Germain's Brazilian stars bring samba to the city of love

Andy Mitten: Neymar's move to PSG a blow to Barcelona's status atop football's food chain

Richard Jolly: Neymar's call to leave Barca for PSG may be profitable but not necessarily wise

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Of course, salaries have spiralled in recent years alongside everything else in European football, driven by rocketing TV rights deals and commercial activities at the clubs. But the players themselves are not generally grabbing a larger slice of the pie. It is just the pie has gotten very, very big.

That is not to say that wages are the only sign of the financial madness in top-level football. Transfer fees are increasing at a scarily fast pace, as the putative Neymar deal shows.

The weight is borne more by super-clubs such as Manchester United and PSG, who buy more than they sell. But it is not ideal that agents such as Jorge Mendes and Neymar's dad end up making tens of millions in commissions from player moves.

And while it is true that football's stars are not really taking a bigger share of the revenue being generated through their exploits, it was a pretty hefty slice to begin with. Other businesses such as advertising and investment banking depend on talent, too, but their employee costs are relatively modest by comparison.

Still, it seems unfair to castigate football's young superstars for maintaining their share of the game's riches. Indeed, you might tell them to enjoy it while it lasts, as evidence shows TV viewers are starting to switch off.

Don't hate the player, hate the game.

* Bloomberg