Neymar is one of world football’s most wanted players.
The 20-year-old sensation has been touted as a possible target for a plethora of European teams, all of whom hope to prize the young pretender away from his home in South America.
Chelsea have reportedly been leading the chase from England, although realistically a move to La Liga would seem like the perfect fit for an attack-minded youngster making waves with Santos. And, alongside Lionel Messi, a link-up at Barcelona could be football heaven.
But it could also represent financial heaven for the Catalan giants, who remain behind Real Madrid in the football rich list. Indeed, Los Blancos have won that crown seven years consecutively.
However, Neymar’s arrival could be the catalyst to swing things back the way of the Blaugrana. Whilst the move makes much sense on the pitch, it could means even more off it.
Sandro Rosell, Barca’s president, enjoyed great success as a businessman working with Nike. In 1994, he was charged with the task of signing either Madrid or Barca on a sponsorship deal. And, following negotiations at the Nou Camp, tied his current club to a mega-deal. 18 years on, and the Barca-Nike partnership could come to an end when their contract expires in 2013.
To not consider alternatives would be bad business by Barcelona, but there is no doubt that the pairs dealings with each other have been massively beneficial over the past two decades – not least because of player signings.
Rosell is credited with a major involvement in bringing Ronaldinho to the club in 2003, after a well-publicised claim that David Beckham would be making the switch.
It shouldn’t be forgotten that Beckham is the poster-boy for Adidas, and his move came just a year after Manchester United had signed a shirt sponsorship deal with Nike. Had Beckham joined Barcelona, he again would have helped sell the shirts of a company not sponsoring him personally.
And, since his move from Old Trafford, Beckham has played for Madrid, LA Galaxy and AC Milan. All three share the same kit manufacturer – Adidas.
Back at Barca, and Rosell was able to use his influence in Brazil to help bring the brilliant Ronaldinho over to Catalonia from Paris Saint-Germain.
He had been involved in the deal that saw Nike become shirt sponsor of Brazil, and their subsequent World Cup win in 2002 was a huge commercial success (remember the Joga Benito adverts?) for all involved.
After helping friend Joan Laporta take the presidential reigns, Rosell lured Ronaldinho to the club and the rest, as they say, is history.
Now president himself, the possibility of signing Neymar – a Nike sponsored player – to help boost the Barcelona brand in South America is again a tantalising prospect. With Neymar on the books, who knows what Nike might pay to keep manufacturing the kit.
Additionally, the North America brand needs a poster-boy at the club. Messi, who remains the superstar under Pep Guardiola, is sponsored by Adidas. The same is true of Xavi and David Villa, whilst Cesc Fabregas switched to Puma in the summer.
Goal.com claims Nike have been pushing Barcelona to sign one of their high-profile players, a policy Guardiola isn’t against given the fact that his brother Pere had previously worked in the marketing and PR department for the sport’s giant.
The Spanish manager is said to have concerns over Neymar though, whose temperament has been called into question in Brazil in the past after a number of high-profile incidents on the negative side of life.
But, with eight goals in 16 appearances for the Brazilian senior side, there is no doubting the player’s ability. That wasn’t enough to save Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Samuel Eto’o from the exit door however.
With eight sponsorship deals already under his belt, Neymar is certainly big business, and a move to Europe would only see his profile rise even more on this continent.
A £50 million release clause means Barcelona will need to decide if they can re-coup the money spent on the youngster in shirt sales and memorabilia though, as well as success on the pitch.
That almost seems a formality, given that Neymar would be joining one of football’s greatest ever club sides. And, if he could add to the brand in South America as is hoped, then collecting the money back wouldn’t be a problem either.
It seems like a football no-brainer, both for Barcelona and Nike, if the sport manufacturer is ready to spend big on sponsoring the world’s greatest team next year.
Football is business, and Neymar could be a dream ticket for all parties involved.
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