A $218 million bid? $360 million price tag? Neymar, Manchester United saga raising eyebrows

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Neymar’s agent was at Old Trafford for Manchester United’s weekend clash with Newcastle United, jumpstarting the unlikely rumors that the Brazilian superstar could be en route to the Theater of Dreams.

And as crazy as it sounds, the reports have done two things for the world of soccer:

  1. Taught us how willing the media is to run with unlikelihood
  2. Shown us some crazy big transfer fees

At some level, this Neymar story is perfect. We rarely get to see a megastar, still on the verge of his prime years, change clubs. So the deals we see are usually on potential, star power or name quality.

With Neymar, we get to see all three. And the prices are staggering.

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Reports from Brazil’s GloboEsporte say that United have bid approximately $218 million for Neymar — the price tag of his release clause — but that’s nothing compared to the report that Red Devils executive is willing to pay up to $360 million for the star, hoping to make the man the flagship of his business.

That’s 3.6 million $100 replica kits. For comparison, United and Real Madrid duke it out annually for most replica shirts sold as a club. The number in 2013-14 was around 1.5 million.

The Guardian says Neymar has told United he’s interested in joining their club, but that the Premier League outfit is well aware that it could be a ploy to get a new, rich deal from Barcelona.

Neymar is signed through 2018 at Barcelona, and president Josep Maria Bartomeu doesn’t expect him to go:

“We do not want Neymar to leave,” the Blaugrana supremo told Radio Catalunya . “He is young and we want him to retire here at our club.”

Yet could they turn down $360 million? Even at Barca, that number is bonkers.

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There’s another level to this, and it involves setting the market. $360 million is close to three Gareth Bales (Sold for 85 million pounds). So perhaps it’s the same thing as Bale with a closely-cropped haircut. The repercussions would be staggering, raising the fees for mid-level players as well and lighting a fuse connected to Financial Fair Play and fiscal responsibility.

In any event, even considering the numbers above it would be shocking if any Neymar sale happened before Sept. 1. Barcelona doesn’t get the influx of players it bought this summer until after its transfer ban is lifted ahead of the January window. And with Pedro sold, the money would only help the club if they had a replacement ready right away.

Still, the saga is showing us something new, and something bonkers. We’ve gotten used to big numbers in the transfer world, but nothing like this.