Warning: I really nerd out about the law and finances of soccer so can’t help but jump into these convos.
I’m not sure if the rumor that the Qatari fund paid the buy-out fee was ever verified, but because of how FFP accounting works it actually wouldn’t matter. Because of the close ties between PSG and the Qatari fund, FFP treats the fund as a “related party” to PSG. If a related party pays for something it’s treated as if the club paid that money itself, so in this case any money the fund pays would be treated as if PSG itself paid it. Thus, it ends up on PSG’s books for FFP purposes just the same. This “related party” idea was included in anticipation of situations exactly like this. I don’t disagree that clubs are looking for ways to spend money without it showing up on their books, but I think FFP has anticipated more tricks than people think. For example, we’ve already seen PSG get in trouble before when they tried to inject cash from their owner by using a super inflated sponsorship agreement from one of the owner’s other companies.
It is true that buy-out clauses work so that it’s the player themselves paying the club to buy themselves out, but PSG (or the fund) paying Neymar who can then pay Barca still shows up on PSGs books regardless; the money left their pockets at some point, and that’s an expense that FFP tracks.
As for the idea FFP has been ineffective, I don’t think that’s entirely true. FFP wasn’t instituted to decrease spending but to decrease losses, you can only spend what you earn—with some acceptable wiggle room—and since its implementation we’ve seen club debts and losses shrink drastically. It’s true we’ve seen spending increase, but we’ve also seen income increase exponentially—just factoring in TV rights alone—so that clubs have more money to spend than ever even within the ‘spend only what you earn’ restraints of FFP.
FFP isn’t perfect by any means, it has been anti-competitive overall, entrenching the established market dominants, but it has had some benefits, and soccer needs something in the spirit of FFP in place if it’s to survive in any enjoyable capacity.