Neymar: Pawn in a political game

"NO SERIOUS player wants to go to PSG" is a phrase often heard amid the cacophony of high-end musical chairs that is the European transfer window.

Why, then, has Neymar, arguably the third best player in the world, given serious consideration to going there?

Well, money, of course – the poor lamb wants more than the miserable £30 million (RM165m) a year – after tax – Barcelona are currently paying him. But ego has also come into it.

The view from South America is that the Brazilian is tired of playing second or third fiddle to the virtuoso that is Lionel Messi: sulking about getting fewer headlines and collecting barely half the Argentine's £1 million (RM5.5m) a week wages.

The latest reports suggest the move may not happen, but until an official announcement is made, the possibility remains.

"If you can beat him, join somebody else", seems to have been Neymar's thinking, but the only way up from Barcelona is Real Madrid – and aside from committing unconscionable treachery, even that is fiercely debatable.

And it's certainly not to play for an outfit that is the ultimate jaguh kampung yet fell short of even that accolade last season when finishing well behind the feeder club that is Monaco.

And, despite the influx of zillions of petro-dollars, it is a club that has never gone beyond the last eight of the Champions League.

Then there's the environment. Paris is more a rugby city than a football hotbed, has only the one club that was formed as recently as 1970 – a century after many English clubs – and, as Chelsea fans sing about themselves, "ain't got no histry".

They play in an uncompetitive, second-tier league known – with a couple of exceptions – for providing "holiday" fixtures in lovely wine-growing regions.

It is fine for a player in the autumn of his career but not one with Neymar's ambitions of winning the Ballon d'Or and becoming numero uno.

This is not to knock French football – it is second to none in producing and harvesting the finest vintages, but the best are exported before they reach the top table.

It's been this way since the 1950s when Raymond Kopa went to Real long before PSG was formed, through Michel Platini, Thierry Henry and, soon and inevitably, Kylian Mbappe.

At least we have had a genuine blockbuster transfer story to break the never-ending tedium of others we could mention.

And at a time of hyper-inflation worthy of an over-ripe banana republic, it seems appropriate that it stood to not just break the world transfer record, but to double it.

The only surprise is that it was not a more-money-than-sense Premier League club making the running although the involvement of Pogba's agent, Mino Raiola, did give the rumour a sturdy pair of legs.

A year on, what Manchester United paid for Paul Pogba now seems a relative pittance although it still doesn't yet seem like a bargain!

PSG's owners hoped the sums being bandied about would amount to a game changer in a political powerplay.

The Oryx Qatari Sports Investment group is desperate to break into the elite of European football which they see just as crucial in putting their tiny state on the map as staging the 2022 World Cup.

That need has become even more desperate now with the effective estrangement of their nation by a clutch of surrounding Arab states.

And Qatar are not afraid to play their biggest card – cold, hard petro-dollar cash.

By activating Neymar's release clause, the owners were prepared to pay £197 million (RM1.1b) to Barcelona but to clinch the deal they'd have to cough up much more than that.

Taxes would take at least £50 million (RM275m) while wages over five or six years could amount to £150 million (RM825m). And then, there's a signing on fee – another £40 to £50 million (RM220m-275m). And we're not done yet.

Who knows how much Raiola, whom Neymar only recently hired to push the deal through, would negotiate for himself? And, last but not least, is Neymar Sr.

You will remember the old man wangled a tidy few millions out of the deal that took his son to Barca in the first place, one dodgy enough to have led to the resignation of a club president, court cases, a transfer embargo, fines and acute embarrassment.

The word from Spain, according to Spanish football guru Graham Hunter, suggests it is Papa Neymar and Raiola who have been driving the leave argument while Messi and Luis Suarez are the leading remainers.

One cannot blame the player for listening to an offer that could add up to half a billion pounds, but you feared he may not have fully appreciated how he was being used.

Old players always say a move should be made for football reasons first and foremost and, however this is dressed up, in pure football terms it would be a downward step.

PSG, along with other Qatari-owned investments, have been told to up their game and word is they even gazumped Manchester City for Dani Alves to have another friendly Brazilian to soften the landing for their prize catch.

The more you look at it, the more blatantly political and commercial it looks.

Signing the Barca superstar would allow them to muscle in on a global market through his image rights, yet the club would remain in a second tier league with lukewarm support even in Paris.

Hopefully, Neymar has taken note of this as well as reminded himself that he is the youngest member of the greatest front three of all time, the much-vaunted El Tridente, and will one day become No. 1 as Messi and Suarez grow old.

Giving it up for pieces of silver would be madness and no preparation for next year's World Cup. Maybe he has also listened to Marco Veratti who wants to move the other way "to a bigger club that can win the Champions League" – not his words, but a teammate's.

Nope, it wouldn't be for football reasons – if Neymar did leave the Nou Camp, he'd just become a very rich pawn in a political game – albeit a diminished footballer at a lesser club. The signs are that message may have sunk in.