The most sensible place to start is at the staggering sum floated this week in 'the world game'. 25-year-old Brazilian sensation Neymar da Silva Santos Junior (Neymar to his friends) moved from Spanish powerhouse F.C. Barcelona to France's resurgent Paris Saint-Germain FC. The transfer price was an eye-popping €222m
. Following the announcement Bayern Munich CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge quipped that he would rather have bought a stadium
Neymar himself said, "I wanted a new challenge. This was about ambition... I was never motivated by money". Indeed, the vast majority of that transfer fee (a quarter of a billion dollars in US currency) will not go to Neymar. The young champion will only earn some €27m per year, or €500,000 per week at PSG. The rest is for Neymar's former owners. We use the word 'owners' in this context with all the discomfort that it should perhaps engender, but doesn't. In the world of international football, players are routinely viewed as assets, not employees. They are traded, sold, dumped or elevated at their clubs' discretion. And yet, Barcelona's president said that Neymar was disloyal
To understand how such an astronomical transfer fee (more than double the previous record) came to pass, one must know not only the player but also the buyer. Since 2011 PSG has been owned by Oryx Qatar Sports Investment
, a group based in the oil-rich state's capital of Doha. Like its neighbours in the United Arab Emirates, Qataris have learned that investment in sports can be a quick route to legitimacy and status. Remember, Qatar essentially bought the 2020 World Cup rights as well.
Meanwhile, Barcelona angled hard for another Brazilian to replace Neymar, Liverpool FC's Philippe Coutinho. In what's now a common practice amongst clubs, a war of misinformation broke out this week. Reports to the media stated that Coutinho was close to a deal (he wasn't). After Liverpool rejected an offer just shy of €100m for the attacking midfielder, still more deceptive stories surfaced. Finally, Liverpool's frustrated manager Juergen Klopp
announced, "we will not sell Philippe Coutinho at any price".
The business of sport clearly holds sway over the world of football, but it's no less of a factor in other arenas. Right now the IAAF World Championships of Athletics is underway in London. It's been full of controversy. The British press slammed James Gatlin after he beat Usain Bolt and Christian Coleman to win gold in the 100m sprint. Gatlin, who was booed at the medal ceremony, is described as a two-time drug cheat (he's not
) and has been cast as the villain of international athletics.
To cast Gatlin as the true villain requires an extraordinary amount of contortion. He is but one example among a veritable sea of athletes bending the rules for success, fame and wealth. His is in fact a minor role when compared to the International Association of Athletics Federations itself. Like its sister organisations FIFA and the IOC, the IAAF is as corrupt as they come. Graft, nepotism and bribery are integral parts of how each organisation retains power and influence. The evidence against them literally fills books. And let's not even get started on Russia's official doping program
But we digress, so we return now to the legendary Usain Bolt who said this week that he had "done his time"
. Despite finishing a quiet third in his final race, Bolt will be remembered as one of the greatest runners of all time. An honour was invented just to describe his achievements: the 'triple triple'
. Bolt won gold medal in the 100m, 200, and 4x100m relay at three Olympic Games in a row (Beijing, London and Rio). No wonder he stands to make in excess of $30m from brand endorsements this year.
Also joining Bolt in retirement this week was three time Tour de France winner Alberto Contador. The Spaniard known affectionately as El Pistolero retired
with just two of his three trophies intact (the third was stripped after a doping ban). Cycling of course is yet another sport with big money, big stars, and big cheats