PSG, Barca and Man City highlighting two-tier finances in football

Barcelona present new signing Philippe Coutinho at the Camp Nou. (REUTERS)
Updated 08 January 2018
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PSG, Barca and Man City highlighting two-tier finances in football

LONDON: Last August, Paris Saint-Germain committed to spending €402million ($418 million) on the transfer fees of two forward Neymar and Kylian Mbappe. In a trio of deals concluded between the last week of August and the first week of January, Barcelona committed to spending €407 million on transfer fees for Ousmane Demeble and Philippe Coutinho plus a signing bonus for Lionel Messi.
In among those five transactions were at least three world records (highest transfers fee for any footballer and a teenage footballer, record signing-on fee), three La Liga records (one record fee out of Spain’s top tier, and two in), and one Premier League record (highest fee in or out of England).
Qatar-owned PSG spent more in a single window than any club ever, yet were working on over another €100m worth of deals for AS Monaco midfielder Fabinho and Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Jan Oblak before Financial Fair Play cooled their enthusiasm. Had Abu Dhabi-owned Manchester City not been beaten to the punch on Mbappe and signed the France international themselves they would have retained that single-window high watermark. As it was City inflated the Premier League record for commitments on transfer fees to €282 million — and had a deadline-day deal agreed for Alexis Sanchez that would have extended that summer bill to €350 million.
To put the numbers laid down by Barcelona, PSG and City into context, in the three windows following Jose Mourinho’s appointment as manager Manchester United’s total commitment to transfer fees was ‘just’ €382 million, according to figures published by the CIES Football Observatory. United led Deloitte’s 2017 review of club revenue with record annual earnings of €689 million.
In some ways, Barcelona’s response is the most interesting. Embarrassed, infuriated and unnerved by PSG’s use of a release clause to forcibly extract Neymar from them, Barca’s board reacted in three ways.
First, it lobbied UEFA over FFP, banding with other established clubs to have the governing body warn PSG over state-funded excess. Second, it threw unprecedented sums at a new €35 million net basic salary (and €100m signing bonus) to ensure Lionel Messi did not walk out for one of the Gulf-state clubs. Third, it dived into the transfer market to buy Dembele and Coutinho at prices of €105 million plus €42 million of variables and €120 million plus €40 million respectively.
Dembele is 20 and Coutinho 25, both exciting attacking talents. Yet, many professional analysts argue that Barca have overpaid on both — particularly the young France international who infamously fouled up his official presentation by twice losing control of ball he had been asked to juggle for the cameras.
With Coutinho, Barca twice allowed the fee to balloon to levels they had initially indicated they would not pay. €160 million was a figure Liverpool said they would sell the Brazilian for before the end of the summer window, while asking the Catalans for time to secure a replacement. (Liverpool bid for AS Monaco’s Thomas Lemar, only to be gazumped by a deadline-day offer from Arsenal.)
As recently as December, Barca’s stance was that they were not ready to go above €100 million for Coutinho and had grown tired of Liverpool’s refusal to “negotiate in reasonable terms.” If that was no more than a negotiating stance of their own, the asking price climbed another notch when Nike released an online advertisement stating that “Philippe Coutinho is ready to light up Camp Nou” before the transfer was complete.
Nike sponsors both Barcelona and Coutinho. It is understood that the sportswear wanted another of its cadre of elite footballers to fill the space alongside Adidas-affiliated Messi vacated by Neymar, another Nike ‘name’. There is even a suggestion in the Catalan capital that Nike provided additional funding, via Coutinho, to get the transfer over the line.
Its ramifications ripple on through the system. Last January, the entire Premier League spent £215 million ($291 million) on transfer fees. In the first week of the 2018 window, Liverpool have completed one purchase and one sale worth a combined £216 million. They have agreement from Lemar to join them should Monaco consent to sell the France international for what is expected to be a fee of €90 million. Liverpool are also looking at adding more money to the €65 million already committed to Leipzig to bring forward the transfer of Naby Keita.
Serious money for a ‘stepping stone’ club that is verging on three decades without a League title. Yet in comparison to Barca, PSG and City still decidedly second-tier.


Simona Halep positive despite Dubai defeat by Belinda Bencic

Updated 21 February 2019
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Simona Halep positive despite Dubai defeat by Belinda Bencic

  • Former world No.1 blames three-set loss on tiredness after nine matches in 13 days.
  • Halep has high hopes for the rest of 2019, saying her game is in good shape.

LONDON: Simona Halep is still certain a good year lies in store for her despite losing to Belinda Bencic in the Dubai quarterfinals.
The Romanian former world No. 1 was the favorite to win her second title in the emirate but ran out of steam as her Swiss opponent ran out 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 winner.
It was Halep’s ninth match in just 13 days and she admitted tiredness had caught up with her.
“It was really difficult physically. I was tired,” the world No. 2 said.

Bencic came from a set down to beat the favorite in the last-eight encounter in Dubai. (AFP) 


“After the second set, I felt like I’m getting cramping a little bit. It’s normal. I was sweating a lot.”
While, her fatigue was clear for all to see, Halep was not using it as an excuse, admitting Bencic, who has now beaten her in two of their three matches, was the deserved winner.
“Yeah, she played well. She played very well. In the end, she was a little bit stronger,” the Romanian said.
Having lost in the Qatar final last weekend and failed to make the last-four in Dubai you might think Halep would be disappointed with her Middle East stint. She was, however, far from glum and revealed she is looking forward to landing more titles to add to her collection during the rest of the year.

Cheerio from Halep after her defeat to the Swiss. (AFP) 


“I think were three good weeks. Tough weeks. A lot of tension, a lot of pressure. Also the Fed Cup,” she said.
“I take only positive things. I had great matches. My level is good. Physically also I’m good. But day by day I had to play, so is not easy.
“I’m confident for the next tournaments.”