Barcelona star Neymar pictured with Jhenny Andrade.
Qatar’s worldwide spending spree
Qatar may have found itself increasingly politically isolated in the Middle East over accusations of funding terrorism.
But that has not stopped the oil-rich country from extending its influence elsewhere, particularly through sport.
From football clubs to department stores, golf tournaments and car festivals, there are few things the Qataris have not invested in.
The country’s leader, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, was educated in Britain. He went to Sherborne School, Dorset before attending Sandhurst, the British Army officers academy, and Qatar has invested heavily in the UK. Upmarket department store Harrods is owned by their Qatari royal family and in 2014, it was announced Goodwood racecourse had entered a ten-year sponsorship deal with Qatar Racing and Equestrian club, worth at least £2.5million a year.
Qatar is also one of the main sponsors at Royal Ascot. The county’s Qatar Airways has a £48million a year shirt deal with Barcelona and, in May this year, it was named as an official partner of football’s governing body, Fifa, until 2022.
Neighbours United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia severed ties with Qatar earlier this year over its alleged support for groups such as IS and Al Qaeda.
Even in the mad world of football transfers, it is a staggering amount of money.
But the crazy spending by super-rich clubs reached new levels with Brazilian forward Neymar agreeing to join French side Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) for an astonishing £196 million.
It will be the biggest transfer in football history and more than double the game’s previous record of £89.3million set just last year.
Though much admired, the young Brazilian is still not deemed the best player in the world – that title is usually given to either Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi. Pictured: Neymar playing for Barcelona
With bonuses also included if he plays well, it could reach more than £450million.
But money is no issue for the French side, which is one of the world’s richest clubs following their takeover by Qatar Sports Investments (QSi), an arm of Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund with access to £194billion.
QSi will be hoping its new star signing will bring them closer to their goal of winning Europe’s biggest football competition – the Champions League – something which has so far eluded them.
The £196million transfer fee smashes the previous record, set by Manchester United last year when the club signed Frenchman Paul Pogba (pictured with Neymar)
Qatar, a microstate with a population of just 2.57million, already has its own Masters golf tournament, sponsors the ‘Qatar’ Goodwood Festival, and is controversially set to host 2022 World Cup, a deal which has been surrounded by allegations of bribery and corruption.
The country is currently locked in a bitter diplomatic dispute with its neighbours who have accused its government of supporting terrorism. But the signing of Neymar signals it is businesses as usual for the tiny oil-rich state.
The £196million transfer fee smashes the previous record, set by Manchester United last year when the club signed Frenchman Paul Pogba. Bizarrely, Neymar is not even considered to be the best player in the world – lagging behind Argentinian Lionel Messi and Portuguese striker Cristiano Ronaldo, who both also play in the Spanish league – La Liga.
Away from football, Neymar has more than 30million followers on Twitter and 78million on Instagram – more than David Beckham and Wayne Rooney combined.
He endorses more than a dozen products, including a bank, a car manufacturer and perfume and also has his own trainer collaboration with Nike and basketball great Michael Jordan, the ‘Air Jordan v Neymar’.
Pictured: Neymar’s private upon its departure from Francisco Sa Carneiro airport on the outskirts of Porto, following a stop over from Barcelona
Pictured: Neymar during a stop-over in Porto
An avid collector of sports shoes, he was once said to have spent more than £14,000 on them in one shopping trip.
This year he was placed third on Forbes magazine’s list of the highest-paid footballers behind Ronaldo and Messi.
Born in Mogi das Cruzes, a small city east of Sao Paulo, Neymar da Silva Santos Junior is the only son of former professional footballer Neymar Santos and wife Nadine.
Neymar has a massive 78 million followers on Instagram. Pictured: Neymar with his girlfriend Bruna Marquezine
Pictured: Neymar relaxes aboard his private jet, which he bought for £6million
Neymar is hugely popular in Brazil. Pictured: A woman kisses graffiti of the star in Rio de Janeiro
The family are close and his father has guided his son’s career and continues to work as his agent. He is phenomenally popular in Brazil. When he was left out of the squad for the 2010 World Cup finals, 14,000 fans signed a petition in a bid to get him included.
He was 19 when his ex-girlfriend Carol Dantas gave birth to his son, David Lucca, and they both moved to Barcelona when Neymar signed for the team in 2013. Since then he has dated Brazilian actress and model Bruna Marquezine, 21.
On the pitch, during his four seasons in Catalonia, Neymar has helped Barcelona win the Spanish league twice, the Champions League once, the Spanish cup on three occasions and the FIFA Club World Cup.
In October, he signed a new contract with Barcelona which would have lasted until 2021, with the buy-out clause raised.
Money is no issue for PSG, which is one of the world’s richest clubs following their takeover by Qatar Sports Investments (QSi), an arm of Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund with access to £194billion. Pictured: Doha, the capital of Qatar
The small Gulf state has been on a spending spree, including sponsoring the Qatar Goodwood Festival
Pictured: Golfer Graeme McDowell plays during the Qatar Masters at the Doha Golf Club earlier this year
Club president Josep Bartomeu had said that the club would do everything to keep him, but to no avail. Neymar reportedly met with PSG chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi in Qatar on Tuesday before making a brief visit to Barcelona’s training ground yesterday to inform the club of his wish to leave.
The deal has sparked rumours that Barcelona could complain to UEFA on Financial Fair Play grounds. Pictured: Neymar with a brace of pups
Afterwards, the Spanish club’s spokesman Josep Vives said the player had been reminded of ‘the release clause in his current contract, which as of July 1 is 222 million euros [£196million], which must be paid in full’. But it was a price PSG was willing to pay, according to one of Neymar’s representatives Wagner Ribeiro.
‘After Neymar gave me the green light on August 1, I went to Paris and today I brought back PSG’s offer to pay the (buyout) clause, which will be done in the next hours,’ he said yesterday, adding his client would be with the French team by this weekend. News of the record signing was met with disbelief – and some anger – on social media.
One Twitter user commented that based on the UK’s average salary of around £27,000, it would take someone about 22 years to earn what Neymar is expected to be paid in a week.
The unprecedented scale of the deal also sparked rumours that Barcelona could make a complaint to European footballing organisation UEFA over a failure to adhere to Financial Fair Play rules. Introduced seven years ago, the rules are designed to stop clubs from spending more than they earn.