Paris, France | AFP | Brazil superstar Neymar will watch from the stands as Paris Saint-Germain open their season Saturday, but the French club have already clawed back around a million euros on their world record investment.
Neymar signed from Barcelona for a mind-boggling 222 million euros ($264 million), will be presented to the PSG support at 15:45 (13:45 GMT) prior to his new team’s first game of the Ligue 1 campaign against promoted Amiens.
“I am ready to start on Saturday if I can,” the 25-year-old striker told the press on Friday before falling victim to the constraints of paperwork.
But despite the minor setback, Neymar has already started repaying his mammoth transfer fee.
The French club have already earned around a million euros thanks to selling a staggering 10,000 shirts bearing the Brazilian’s name in just one day.
A ceremony will begin at 3:45pm (1345 GMT) with the kick-off put back quarter of an hour to 5:15pm to allow extra time for the player’s unveiling before an expected sell-out crowd of more than 45,000 at the Parc des Princes.
However, Neymar’s hopes of playing in the match were dashed when his international transfer certificate failed to be lodged with the French league by the midnight deadline on Friday.
PSG said that more than 10,000 shirts bearing his name and his new number No.10 were sold on Friday.
At an average of 100 euros each, PSG generated one million euros even before he had kicked a ball.
Money was the subject of most of the questions fired at the Brazilian when he was unveiled to the media on Friday after arriving in the French capital on a private jet.
However, Neymar, who is poised to earn around 30 million euros a year, insisted financial gain was not a factor.
“I want something bigger, a greater challenge. I am here to give my best and help the club win titles,” said Neymar, who signed a five-year contract with the Qatar-owned club.
He insisted he had come to France “for the ambition of the club, which is very similar to mine.”
Neymar admitted that leaving Barcelona, where he formed part of a lethal attacking trio with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, was not a decision he took lightly.
“It was one of my most difficult decisions. In Barcelona I had adapted well to the city and the team. I had friends there and it has not been easy,” he said.
“It was a tense time, thinking about what I should do in my life. I have left behind a lot of friends, but things go very fast in football.”
– ‘His value will double’ –
Neymar will become the second highest-paid player in the world — behind Carlos Tevez and his 38 million euros a year at Shanghai Shenhua but ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo’s 23.6 million euros annual salary at Real Madrid.
The transfer fee shattered the previous world record of 105 million euros set by Manchester United in signing France midfielder Paul Pogba last year from Juventus.
It is an eye-watering sum, but one that PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi insisted will eventually look like a bargain for the player who came third in the Ballon d’Or in 2015 behind Messi and Ronaldo.
“There are not two Neymars in the world. I would love for us to meet in two years and see what his value will be compared to today. At least double,” said Al-Khelaifi.
“I don’t think it’s expensive, I’m convinced we are going to earn more money with him. It’s a project of two brands: we’re associating the Neymar brand and the PSG brand.”
There is scepticism at the role played by PSG’s owners Oryx Qatar Sports Investments (QSI) at a time of political crisis for the energy-rich state which has been boycotted by its Gulf neighbours in recent months and will play host to the World Cup in 2022.
On the field PSG are hoping Neymar can help them win back the Ligue 1 title lost to Monaco last season, and also finally get their hands on the Champions League trophy.