Neymar to PSG: We look at four other examples of dads who capitalised on their kid’s sporting success

As it turns out, there's a long history of dads making money off their children's backs...


It’s looking more and more likely that Barcelona’s fauxhawked dribble-princeling, Neymar Jr, is about to complete a world record transfer to France’s premier petroclub, Paris Saint-Germain.

“The player … accompanied by his father and agent,” reads a club statement, “has informed FC Barcelona this morning of his decision to leave the Club in a meeting held at the Club’s offices.”

Neymar, it appears, is keen to swap the Qatari-backed Spanish outfit for the Qatari-backed French outfit in order to appease his rather overbearing father, the imaginatively titled Neymar Senior. That he would consider giving up sharing a pitch with Leo Messi and Luis Suárez in order to line up alongside Edinson Cavani and Jesé Rodriguez is a testament to the persistent pushiness of his dad.

But can you really blame Senior?

After all, he could be set to earn tens of millions of euro if the deal goes through.

In fairness to the elder Neymar, he’s hardly the first father to seize control of their offspring’s sporting career and so, to celebrate this moment of paternal dominance, we’ve decided to compile a few examples of other dads who just had to get a piece of their kid’s action.

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LaVar Ball

Neymar Senior, it has to be said, will need to try a lot harder if he wants to truly become the contemporary king of the pushy sports daddies. For, at the moment, there is an outstanding candidate for the throne in LaVar Ball, father of LA Lakers tyro Lonzo.

Since Ball Junior was in high school, LaVar has served as a preening mouthpiece for his son, appearing on chat show after chat show in order to bellow into our faces a series of hyperbolic paeans about Lonzo.

So well-known has he become as a result that LaVar is now considered a “media personality” in his own right. There’s a decent argument that he is more famous than his son, and it doesn’t appear as if LaVar’s publicity drive is going to let up.

A few months ago, in conjunction with Lonzo, he even went so far as to launch a range of trainers called the ZO2.

The price for a pair of this Ball-branded footwear? A snip at $495.

Emanoul Aghassian, aka Mike Agassi

Having boxed for Iran at two Olympic Games, Agassi pere made the move to the USA in 1952, and ended up working at the Tropicana Hotel in Las Vegas by 1962. Eight years later his son Andre was born, and it wasn’t long before Mike had identified the young man’s sporting potential.

According to Andre, his father would set up tennis matches across the city, often with the intent of using the kid to make money.

Mike would bet on the outcome of the contests, once winning $5,000 from NFL player Jim Brown after the Cleveland Browns fullback unsuccessfully took on the 9-year-old Andre.

Mike, it’s not unfair to say, was an exceptionally determined man.

“I sacrificed three children because I wanted them to become great tennis players,” he told La Republicca in 2015. “The first, Rita, was very strong, but Pancho Gonzales, the former tennis champion, took her away. He became her coach and he slept with her.”

In 2002, it emerged via Sports Illustrated that Agassi senior had once planned to have Gonzales killed. Nothing, it seemed, would stand in Mike’s way, so it’s understandable that Andre was keen to live up to his expectations.

Peter Graf

Fittingly, Andre ended up marrying a woman, Steffi Graf, whose father was nicknamed “the German Mike Agassi.” If anything, however, Peter Graf was worse than Mike.

He is alleged to have beaten Steffi after poor performances, and made sure to keep tight control over his daughter’s finances. So “adept” was he at doing so that, in 1997, he was convicted of not paying tax on nearly £5 million of her earnings.

After two tournaments in Germany in the early 1990s, he is rumoured to have driven away with over £150,000 in plastic bags in the back of his car.

Peter also set up offshore corporations on the back of Steffi’s success and for several years signed double contracts in order to evade tax on a significant portion of her income.

If he has any sense at all, Neymar Senior will learn from the master.

Marv Marinovich

In many ways, Marv Marinovich serves as an inspiration for pushy parents around the world. So determined was ol’ Marv to mould the fruit of his loins into an NFL footballer, he essentially made his son Todd a human experiment.

Marinovich senior forced his toddler into performing series after series of pushups, and sent the youngster to spend time with various specialists, who worked on the boy’s physique

Sports Illustrated’s David Looney even went so far as to describe Todd as “the first test tube quarterback.”

Alas, as it turned out Todd preferred painting and Class A drugs to gridiron, and he ended up floating through an unsuccessful career as a quarterback in (briefly) the NFL and the Canadian Football League before committing full time to his art.

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