Will there ever be a £1 billion player?

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Neymar at his PSG unveiling in 2017.

These days, money in football is ridiculous.

In 2017, Brazilian superstar Neymar signed for Paris Saint-Germain for a world record fee, a staggering £200m. The fee was more than double the amount paid for the previous record holder, when Manchester United re-signed Paul Pogba for £89m just a year earlier. With such a rapid inflation in the world record transfer fee, I wondered to what extent this would continue. How soon will it be until we clear the £300m mark for a football transfer, the £500m mark; or even, £1 billion?

There’s no denying that £1,000,000,000 is an extortionate amount of money, but it may become the norm in football sooner than we think. There has been an extraordinary rise in the amount of money being spent in football, and that is epitomised by this BBC graphic, which displays just how much the fee for the most expensive footballer has risen.

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A graph showing how the world record transfer fee in football has changed. (BBC)

To really put it into perspective, you just have to look at how much it has increased this century. In 2001, the world record fee was £46.6m, from the transfer of Zinedine Zidane from Juventus to Real Madrid. Seventeen years later, the new world record fee is more than four times greater. Even Neymar’s first transfer from Santos to Barcelona in 2013 was more expensive (£48.6m) than Zizou’s.

Seventeen years after Zidane’s move, he has gone from being the most expensive footballer of all time to the fourteenth. In that time, he has fallen behind the transfers of Kepa Arrizabalaga (£71.6m), Romelu Lukaku (£75m) and both of Cristiano Ronaldo’s (£80m in 2009 and £88.5m in 2018). As the world has changed so has football, and with it how much money football clubs have and how much they are willing to spend on players. What was once a traditional game of twenty-two players kicking a leather sphere around has now become a global market, and it doesn’t seem to be showing any sign of slowing down soon.

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Zinedine Zidane at his Real Madrid unveiling in 2001.

For us, £1 billion is a huge amount of money, but for the fans of the future it could be nothing. World record fees that were set decades ago for some of football’s biggest names can now be considered bargains, if not inferior amounts in today’s market. As mentioned earlier, Cristiano Ronaldo made a move of about £100m in total from Real Madrid to Juventus last month.

Two years ago that would be a record fee, but now it is closer to a bargain. For someone with five Ballon D’Or’s and a long list of honours which include Champions Leagues, a European Championship and league titles in two of the world’s biggest and most competitive leagues, it seems to be worth it. Besides, if you could afford it who wouldn’t want a player like Cristiano Ronaldo in their team?

So, back to the main question; will there ever be a £1 billion player? With the way football transfers are currently going, I think so. If the inflation of how much clubs are prepared to pay for some of football’s biggest names keeps rising at a staggering rate, the game becomes more and more lucrative and there is constantly more demand for more revenue, I don’t see why there could not be a player with a ten-figure price tag.

Personally, I don’t think it’s a matter of whether it will happen. I think it’s a matter of when it will happen.


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