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The Transfer of the Century: Neymar, PSG, Commercial Value, And Post-Messi/CR7 Football.

MIAMI, FL - JULY 29: Neymar #11 of Barcelona turns back after a missed shot on goal during the International Champions Cup El Clásico match between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid at the Hard Rock Stadium on July 29, 2017 in Miami, FL. FC Barcelona won the match with a score of 3 to 2. FC Barcelona was the International Champions Cup winners. (Photo by Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty Images)

The transfer of the century is upon us and it has led to shock, reflection, insults, and the overall controversy you’d expect from world football moving into uncharted territory.

As it happened, on Thursday morning, La Liga tried to block Neymar’s counsel and lawyers from triggering the €222 million release-clause at the league headquarters. However, the transfer eventually went through with Barcelona confirming the transaction:

Paris is now home to the Brazilian.

The unveiling will be huge, and rightfully so given Neymar’s massive commercial potential. I firmly expect Paris Saint-Germain to get behind the former Santos player’s natural marketing ability and cultural ‘cool’ appeal. Yes, you’re probably thinking this is nothing new – CR7 is overloaded with a massive following and endorsements. True, but Cristiano Ronaldo, at 25, never dropped $18,000 on sneakers for Complex magazine (in the U.S.) to film and publish and cater to the American market. Neymar is trying to tap into music, fashion, and entertainment in a way that Ronaldo never did.

However, this hyper-commercialization didn’t start with Neymar.

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Last summer, Manchester United broke and set the then-record transfer fee of £89 million when they acquired Paul Pogba from Juventus and, like this week; the footballing universe lost their shit. Also, it was the manner in which the French international was unveiled that got the highly-analytical and socially-conscious football folks saying, “It’s happening.”

What is happening, you ask? The hyper-cultural commercialization of young footballers. Historically, the U.S., more so than in Europe, has seen their money men and power brokers embrace the benefit of turning pro athletes into larger-than-life figures that are baptized in corporate advertising.

Of course, George Best, David Beckham, and Ronaldinho were Rockstar footballers, they had commercials, but they were never marketed to the extent of Allen Iverson, LeBron James, Michael Jordan, and Derek Jeter. Those American-bred athletes tapped into popular culture in full. Music, Hollywood, you name it.

In short, the social media era has taken the commercialized approach and infused it with steroids.  A franchise player, because that’s what Neymar will be for PSG, can be marketed straight into the palms of consumer’s hands, literally. It’s the truth. Clubs now have to focus on the global consumer rather than just the European – they always have – but social media has connected people to people, and brands to people, in ways we’ve never seen.

So, what do Messi and CR7 have to do with this? Well, whether we like it or not, their heated football rivalry isn’t just Barcelona vs. Real Madrid, it’s ‘him vs. him.’ It is individual vs. individual in an age where social media puts the microscope on what is a very selfish rivalry, especially if you consider the fact that most enablers of the debate rarely focus on the team play.

The Ballon d’Or has been dominated by the Argentine and the Portuguese for many years now, and it has taken place in the Twitter-age. Now, more than ever, individual achievement is regarded just as much as team accolades. Many people may disagree with this, but that doesn’t matter because Ballon d’Or nominations are spoken of just as much as team titles and that’s what matters in terms of social impact. Messi vs. Ronaldo has changed the natural footballing debate and turned into one where the Ballon d’Or, an individual achievement, is now viewed as something bigger than it was, at least, in terms of coverage.

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And, make no mistake, it impacts millennials, but it perhaps impacts millennial footballers even more.

They see it like we see it, but they also live it. Their priorities and ambitions changed when they saw the attention, love, and fight for supremacy that Messi vs. Ronaldo brought. Neymar wants to be remembered in the same way, if not better, and his personal decision is a byproduct of the most debated football topic in history – Messi vs. Ronald0. Looking back on this transfer, one would be ignorant to ignore the social impact Messi vs. CR7 had on us as fans and on young, talented footballers. The rivalry of all rivalries has changed football forever.

The Netflix-like saga of Neymar is now very much like must-watch television. Neymar’s move, unlike Ronaldo’s from Old Trafford to the Santiago Bernabeu years ago, which was for greater team play aspirations, is now led on fully by personal gain. The Brazilian superstar wants to sit on the Iron Throne that is the Ballon d’Or and he wants to do so holding UCL titles that were not gained by Messi’s assistance.

Furthermore, the narrative arch of the Neymar Transfer Saga was that of massive entertainment: world record transfers, ‘backstabbing’ clubs, selfish ambitions, shifting political landscapes, Messi loyalists, and Neymar fanboys (me) – this is just a growing fraction of modern football. It’s drama. It sells.

Let’s see what next ‘season’ brings in Neymar’s quest for supremacy. He now leads an army of Les Parisiens stars.

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