The signing of Brazilian superstar Neymar for a world record fee by Qatari-owned Paris Saint-Germain is ‘amazing for France’, club president Nasser Al-Khelaifi told the Daily Telegraph.
PSG paid Barcelona 222 million euros ($264 million) for Neymar, 25, in August before signing Kylian Mbappe on loan with an option to buy the 18-year-old from Monaco for up to 180 million euros in the second largest deal in history.
Mbappe had been a target of Real Madrid and the deals have provoked a fiery reaction from La Liga chief Javier Tebas, who accused PSG -- and English side Manchester City -- of making a mockery of UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules.
Al-Khelaifi, however, told the Telegraph in an interview published on the eve of PSG’s Champions League opener against Celtic in Glasgow that Neymar’s arrival should be celebrated as it has also opened up Europe’s premier club competition.
‘Neymar is an international superstar,’ said Al-Khelaifi.
‘An international brand. Everybody is asking ‘what’s going on in France and in the French league? Neymar is playing for Paris Saint-Germain!’
‘Even people who are not interested in football are saying that.
‘Neymar’s first match in Guingamp was broadcast to 183 countries. It was amazing for France and the French league.
‘It is good also for the Champions League because you will have another club competing -– I am not saying by any means we are there yet –- but it’s important to have new clubs coming and clubs with ambition,’ added Al-Khelaifi, who said winning the Champions League is the ‘ultimate goal’.
He also said the impact on the profile of the club globally caused by Neymar’s signing had been astonishing.
‘Today we have a good problem to solve -– we don’t have enough jerseys!’ he said.
‘This is huge for us. I was in the US last week and I saw the jersey of Paris Saint-Germain everywhere. It is the same in Asia and Latin America, the Middle East.
‘I spoke to the owner of Globo TV in Brazil and he said: ‘Guess how much people in Brazil watched the presentation of Neymar -- just the presentation, not the first match.’ I said ‘five million?’ He said ‘no’. I said ‘10 million?’ He said ‘no -- 85 million’. It’s amazing.’
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