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Neymar to PSG: What the world-record transfer means for France's Ligue 1

The football world is still buzzing over the transfer of Neymar from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain. With this transfer, PSG have entered another stratosphere - and Ligue 1 is hoping to profit from the move.

An hour before the kickoff of the first game of the new Ligue 1 season, against SC Amiens, the 45,000 fans who packed the Parc des Princes on Saturday afternoon cheered as if they were witnessing the second coming.

The subject of the most expensive football transfer in history greeted his new fans mostly in Portuguese, but also briefly in French. "Paris est magique," he said. "Ici c'est Paris, merci beaucoup!"

The Parc now has a new prince.

Read more: Neymar's transfer exposes the myths of financial fair play

Read more: Neymar unveiled, denies it's about the money

Frankreich Präsentation Neymars im Stadion (Reuters/J. Schults)

Thousands turned out in Neymar shirts at the Parc des Princes

An historic deal

Neymar has signed on to wear the colors of Paris Saint-Germain for five seasons. This is an historic transfer on more than one level. Never before had a team in France broken the world's transfer record, and never before had a team from Ligue 1 attracted a player of this caliber.

"This is very strong, what PSG has just done," said Mickaël, a long-time fan of the capital's biggest football club. "This is the best player that the club could have signed."

After Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar was probably the best player money could buy. His numbers are impressive: 105 goals in 186 matches for Barcelona, 52 goals in 77 matches for Brazil, two La Liga titles, three Copas del Rey, one Champions League title.

Last season, after taking a 4-0 lead over Barcelona in the first leg of their Champions League round of 16 clash, PSG crashed out after losing 5-1to the Catalans in the second leg. Now, PSG's Qatari owners and the fans are hoping that Neymar can lead the club to a Champions League title.

"Not much went wrong for PSG in the Champions League," diehard supporter Mickaël said. "Maybe Neymar has that special something that can make a difference"

Given the 222 million euros ($261 million) that Paris Saint-Germain paid for him, you almost have to think that anything less than a Champions League title would be a disappointment.

Neymar - at his unveiling in Paris - claimed he moved to join the project; not for the cash

Neymar claimed he moved to join the project; not for the cash

A social media icon

"This transfer is not just historic on a sporting or economic level," said Anthony Alyce, founder of ecofoot.fr, France's most widely read football business website told DW. "But also on a marketing level. In the three largest social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), Neymar has a total of 170 million friends or followers - and these are the fans who PSG wants to attract."

Neymar's Facebook page alone has 60 million likes, while PSG's club account has half that. Sixteen million of these fans are from Brazil.

"And it is these fans who PSG are interested in, as well as their 1.5 million fans from the USA, or the two million from India or Indonesia, all of which are markets that PSG would like to penetrate," Alyce said. 

Since the departure of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, PSG hadn't had a marquee player, a headliner, to help promote the club all over the world. Now Neymar has taken up this role.

Paris loves Brazilians, and Brazilians love France

It's no secret that Paris loves Brazilians - Neymar is the 41st Brazilian to play at the Parc de Princes. Among his Brazilian predecessors are: Valdo, Rai, Leonardo, and Ronaldinho. On the other hand, Brazilians also happen to love Paris and France as a whole.

"The big French companies like Carrefour or Renault do very well there," Alyce noted. "So the transfer makes sense from a marketing point of view." And Neymar's popularity could well make it easier for PSG to negotiate new, more lucrative deals with their kit makers Nike and main sponsor, The  Emirates.

Paris Saint-Germain - Trikot Neymar (picture-alliance/abaca/Balkis Press)

Neymar has 16 million Facebook fans and PSG are targeting those audiences in Brazil and Asia

The Parisians aren't the only ones looking forward to this new era. Ligue 1 also expects Neymar to help promote its brand, which is why the French league officials were so angry with their Spanish counterparts when La Liga refused to accept payment to trigger Neymar's release clause. Ligue 1's  national contract - currently worth 740 million euros annually - is up for renegotiation, presumably at a much higher rate. The same applies to the international rights, which currently come in at around 80 million euros per year. The aim is to first use Neymar to build a much bigger global fan base for PSG and Ligue 1 - and then perhaps for other French teams as well.

A double-edged sword

However, the arrival of Neymar hasn't gone over well with everyone.

"I find this transfer scandalous in every possible way," said Adrien, a fan of PSG's main rivals Marseille, who went on to criticize PSG Chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi for admitting that there is a release clause in Neymar's new contract but refusing to say what it was. 

However, Adrian did concede that Neymar's signing should provide a big boost for the French top flight.

"From a sporting point of view, the transfer is good for Paris. On the park, Neymar will perform his magic. It's good for PSG, but not necessarily for the French title race."

That's the danger; PSG could now become completely dominant in Ligue 1, making for a boring league. And this could happen as soon as the new season that kicked off on Saturday. Monaco are the defending champions, but they have already sold key players this summer like Benjamin Mendy, Bernardo Silva, Tiemoue Bakayoko and Valere Germain, while others like Fabinho and Kylian Mbappe could follow. France's Ligue 1 needs nuture its reputation. It can't solve everything with one player - even if that player happens to be called Neymar.

Watch video 01:50

Neymar unveiled by PSG

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