Neymar’s exit from Barcelona proves as controversial as his arrival

Attorneys for Brazilian forward deposit €222m with club to cover release clause

Jordi Quixano
Neymar celebrating one of his 105 goals at Barcelona.
Neymar celebrating one of his 105 goals at Barcelona.Manu Fernandez (AP)

Attorneys for Brazilian soccer player Neymar have delivered a check for €222 million to the offices of FC Barcelona, to cover the release clause on his contract and clear the way for his move to Paris Saint-Germain. The general-director of the Catalan club, Óscar Grau, received the payment from the lawyers. Neymar took a flight to Paris today, where he is likely to be presented as a new player for the French team on Friday.

Barcelona FC confirmed the operation via an official statement. Neymar, 25, had a contract at the club until 2021.The team will be sending a report to UEFA, the administrative body for association soccer in Europe, so that any disciplinary responsibilities stemming from the operation can be examined.

He can hardly say he’s going because he wants to be the number one, because that is speaking ill of Messi Barcelona FC source

Earlier in the day, Neymar’s lawyers tried to deliver the check to La Liga, Spain’s top-flight soccer division. But, after having said on Wednesday that it would not accept payment for the clause, saying that it did not meet the rules of clean financial dealings, La Liga refused to accept the payment.

Neymar’s four seasons at Barcelona FC have not been without incident: the Spanish La Liga team’s former president, Sandro Rosell, responsible for bringing the player from Brazilian team Santos in 2013, is now in jail for tax evasion related to the 25-year-old’s signing; for the last two weeks, the striker has been playing hide and seek with his club regarding rumors that he was moving to Paris Saint-Germain (PSG); and on Wednesday, when Barcelona FC finally accepted he was leaving, the team president, Josep Maria Bartomeu, was absent. In short, Neymar is set to leave as he arrived: amid confusion and flush with cash.

The Brazilian international arrived at Barcelona’s training ground on Wednesday at 9am, and headed straight for the office of coach Ernesto Valverde to tell him he was leaving and that perhaps there was no point in attending training. Valverde accepted this, given that the player had made it clear he wanted to move to PSG.

Neymar, accompanied by his father, who is also his representative, then met with senior officials.

If PSG pays Barcelona’s asking price, Neymar will be far and away the most expensive player in soccer history

“The meeting with Neymar was already arranged. It didn’t catch us by surprise: they called us on Tuesday night,” say sources at Barcelona FC, adding: “We knew what they were going to say, because although they had said nothing to try to gain some time in a complex financial operation, we were clear that he intended to leave us.”

Neymar and his father reportedly demanded the payment of the €26 million bonus Barcelona had agreed to when the player renewed his contract last year until 2021. The money has been posted with a notary, but Barcelona will want to renegotiate the figure, arguing that Neymar has not met the conditions of his contract: “In response to the demand for the bonus, the club reiterated that it will remain with the notary until the case is resolved,” says a club source.

Neymar reportedly said nothing about his reasons for wanting to leave Barcelona: “He can hardly say he’s going because of the money or because he wants to be the number one, because that is speaking ill off [teammate Lionel] Messi,” says the Barcelona source.

The deadliest attacking trio in soccer history: Luis Suarez, Neymar y Messi celebrate a goal against Atlético Madrid in 2015.
The deadliest attacking trio in soccer history: Luis Suarez, Neymar y Messi celebrate a goal against Atlético Madrid in 2015.ALBERT GEA (REUTERS / Cordon Press)

It is widely speculated that Neymar’s move to PSG is about his desire to win the FIFA World Player of the Year award, which has been won in recent years by five Brazilians.

La Liga has said it will monitor the move to PSG closely, as will European soccer’s governing body UEFA. “The club directed them [PSG] to the release clause of an existing contract that must be paid in full,” Barcelona FC said in a statement.

Money doesn’t seem to be a problem for the Paris club, although it will have to make sure it doesn’t breach the financial fair play rules of FIFA, soccer’s world governing body.

Barcelona will be aware that it can also include a clause in Neymar’s transfer forbidding the sale of the player to Real Madrid, a prospect that has already been raised by some commentators.

Neymar now becomes the most expensive player in soccer history, overshadowing the €105 million Manchester United paid a year ago for Paul Pogba.

Losing Neymar, even in return for €222 million, will be costly for Barcelona: over the last four seasons, the number 11 has played 186 matches, scoring 105 goals and setting up a further 80. Alongside teammates Lionel Messi and Luis Suárez, he formed one of the deadliest trios in soccer history, which racked up a combined total of 363 goals in the last three seasons.

English version by Nick Lyne.

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