‘We are not a selling club’ is the refrain heard from fans, owners and managers alike, when their star players are linked to bigger clubs. The truth is, nearly every club in the world is a selling club.
Until recently, it could have been argued that the only clubs in the world that weren't selling clubs were the Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid. However, events over the northern summer, which have culminated in Neymar’s transfer from Barcelona to PSG for a world record €222 million, have shown that every player has their price and that every club is forced to sell eventually. Every club is a selling club.
Barcelona never really believed that another club would be able to afford to trigger Neymar’s buyout clause - mandatory for every player in Spain - as the price was set so high that it no team would even think of doing it. They also assumed that Neymar would not want to leave, given the relationship he had developed with other players at the club and the fact that he had signed a new contract less than a year ago. But they were wrong and were shown that despite what they believe, even they are a selling club.
There is not much hope for smaller clubs around the world if one of the biggest has to sell against its wishes.
Why then, do managers and owners always say that they aren't a selling club? The answer is simple, what they're really saying when they announce that they aren’t a selling club is that they'll only sell at the right price, however begrudgingly.
This is the case all the way down to the lowest levels, and always has been. A club will develop a player in, for example, League Two in England, and a club from League One or the Championship will be interested. The League Two club will announce that they aren’t a selling club, but sooner or later, a fee will be agreed for the player. If the player progresses well at his new club, the same thing will happen with a bigger club in the Championship or the Premier League, and the same scenario will play out, until the player leaves. And repeat.
People at the clubs know what is meant when the words are said, but fans think differently. For many, it’s difficult to understand and accept why a player would want to leave their club, though it’s obvious that a player would want to play at a higher level or earn more money. Fans get upset that a player doesn’t have the same emotional ties to their club that they do, and depending on the manner of the departure, often turn nasty against the player.
The irony is, more often than not, that player was bought from a smaller club and until having the audacity to move on, worshipped as a club hero. Fans just don’t like it when they’re on the receiving end.
Ultimately, football is a business and loyalty is a rare commodity, but a player needs to make a living. All clubs, whether they like to admit it or not, are selling clubs, and that’s unlikely to change any time soon.
Barcelona fans will be upset that Neymar has left, but they’ll rejoice as their club scours the market for the best players from other clubs, and the cycle will continue.