Qatar is a tiny, obscenely wealthy country/U.S. military base in the Persian Gulf that has, justifiably so, become synonymous of late with dynastic oligarchism, shameless venality, modern-day slavery, and financial support for Islamist terrorism. This, it probably goes without saying, isn’t quite the reputation the small number of obscenely rich Qataris who run the country would like their dear nation to have. Thus they’ve fronted their top public-relations/soft power vessel—the famed Paris Saint-Germain soccer club—an ungodly amount of money to get everyone to forget that nasty slavery and terrorism business and associate Qatar with famous and beautiful soccer guys kicking balls into nets and winning trophies. And the record-shattering Neymar transfer was just the start.
After spending €222 million for the right to pry Neymar away from the despairing clutches of Barcelona—the irony should not be lost here that this is club that broke its high-minded, long time no-shirt-sponsor policy in exchange for Qatar’s millions and finally lost their Brazilian jewel the first year in which the team changed sponsors—and in the process doubling the previous transfer record, PSG are reportedly now preparing to make what would probably wind up the second-highest fee ever. The Parisian club is seriously pushing for the signature of Ligue 1 rivals Monaco’s star, Kylian Mbappé. If the 25-year-old Neymar is the closest thing the sport has to a “Next Messi,” meaning a generational talent the likes of which comprehensively surpasses all others, then the 18-year-old Mbappé is probably the best bet to be the singular star of the generation of players after Neymar’s. He is unbelievably good already and had a coming out season so amazing that traditional superclubs like Real Madrid and Barcelona are hot for him. It’s only natural that PSG would see this shiny new trinket and go for it.
PSG have, according to reports, been after the French striker all summer. It seemed like the Neymar deal would put them out of the running, seeing as it was already unclear whether the club could even foot that bill without coming under Financial Fair Play punishment, but here we are. Le Parisien reports that PSG believe they can fund both the Neymar deal and the likely €180 million-plus Mbappé one by selling a few rotation players and renegotiating some sponsorship agreements in light of all their great new fame—not, of course, that attached to the recent widespread acknowledgement that Qatar funds terrorism (and it will remain forever ironic that saying this clear truth in polite society didn’t really become fashionable until shameless terrorism-supporters Saudi Arabia made it A Thing), but instead the fact that Qatar’s pet team has the incredibly famous Neymar.
According to one report, Mbappé and PSG have actually already agreed to personal terms. The more reputable Le Parisien won’t go that far, but they do note both that Mbappé is definitely willing to hear PSG out and that PSG have a pricy backup plan in case Real Madrid or someone else beats them to Mbappé. Yes, PSG have apparently listened to their new star’s apparent wishes and intend to try for Liverpool’s Phillipe Coutinho. It would be the perfect fuck you to Barça if PSG thrice thwarted their Catalan rivals’ plans, first by batting away their attempts to sign Marco Verratti, then by snatching away Neymar, and finally by swooping in for Barça’s top Neymar-replacement option.
All this money is almost nauseating to even think about, and that’s exactly the point. Qatar, by way of PSG, want you to think of them as an entity so rich and powerful that nothing can prevent them from achieving what they most desire, that even the established powers-that-be must cower before their financial might, and that when their best-laid plans finally, inevitably come to fruition, the result is a product so dazzlingly and stupefyingly great that no one can help but bow down in awe of what they’ve created. After all, it’s a bit harder to remember thousands of faceless poor people dying in deplorable working conditions when the resulting World Cup stadiums are just so damn cool looking, or to think of the thousands of innocent people murdered at the hands of terrorists backed by the Qatari government when the broad smiles and shining faces and stunning highlights of Neymar and Mbappé in their gorgeous PSG shirts are plastered on the TV all the time.