BARCELONA: Neymar could be presented as a Paris Saint-Germain player as early as this weekend for a world record fee as Barcelona admitted defeat in convincing the Brazilian to stay at the Camp Nou on Wednesday.
The player has travelled to Porto by private jet from Barcelona surrounded by his entourage, including his father and agent Neymar Sr, after saying goodbye to his Barca teammates.
Among that party was Wagner Ribeiro, an advisor to the player, who claimed PSG would pay his 222 million euro ($260 million) buyout clause in the “coming hours”.
That would more than double the current transfer record set by Paul Pogba’s £89.3 million ($111 million, 105.2 million euros) move to Manchester United last year.
Media reports suggested that Neymar had gone to Porto, where PSG sporting director Antero Henrique had worked until recently, to undergo a pre-transfer medical.
Sources told AFP that he will arrive in Paris on Thursday afternoon.
Earlier, Barcelona ended weeks of speculation by publicly confirming for the first time the 25-year-old’s wish to leave after four years at the Camp Nou.
“Neymar Jr, accompanied by his father and representative, communicated to FC Barcelona this morning his decision to leave the club,” Barca said in a statement.
“The club have informed them that the buyout clause in his contract, that from July 1 is 222 million euros, must be paid in full.”
Neymar has been tempted to Paris by an astronomical offer that would reportedly see his wages tripled to 30 million euros a year after tax.
However, on the field he also faces the challenge of stepping out of the shadow of five-time World Player of the Year Lionel Messi to try and prove himself as the world’s best.
“It was a huge pleasure having shared all those years with you, my friend @neymarjr,” Messi posted on Instagram alongside a montage displaying some of the pair’s finest moments together.
“I wish you lots of luck in this new stage in your life. See you soon tkm,” he added. “Tkm” stands for “te quiero mucho” (I love you loads).
“Thanks brother. I will miss you man,” Neymar replied.
Presuming both clubs don’t come to a late agreement, the buyout clause would have to be paid to Barcelona via Spain’s La Liga to free the player from the contract he signed last year and runs until 2021.
However, La Liga president Javier Tebas has threatened not to accept PSG’s money over what he perceives as a failure on the French side’s part to comply with UEFA’s financial fair play rules (FFP).
Clubs can be sanctioned by UEFA for making a loss of more than 30 million euros over a three-year period.
“We will not accept this money from a club like PSG,” Tebas told Madrid sports daily AS on Wednesday. “Especially when this club is infringing rules and laws.”
Champions League dream
Winning the Champions League for a first time is the dream driving PSG’s owners Oryx Qatar Sports Investments (QSI) to fund a deal that could herald the start of a new era at the elite level of European football.
Since QSI’s takeover in 2011, PSG have failed to make it beyond the quarter-final stage – most notably blowing a 4-0 first leg lead to lose 6-1 to a Neymar-inspired Barcelona in the last 16 of last season’s competition in March.
Prising Neymar from the grip of Barca would truly announce PSG’s presence as a contender for the likes of Barca, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich to fear.
Neymar has formed one of the deadliest strike partnerships in football history with Messi and Luis Suarez over the past three seasons.
Together they have won two La Liga titles, a Champions League and three Spanish Cups, whilst Neymar has scored 105 goals and provided 80 assists in just 186 games.
However, his four-year spell in Spain has also been overshadowed by the murky transfer deal which brought him to Barcelona from Santos in 2013.
He and his parents as well as Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu face charges of fraud and corruption in an ongoing case brought by DIS, a Brazilian investment company.
DIS owned 40 percent of the players’ rights at the time of the deal and believe they were deliberately cheated out of their real share due to the complex structure of the transfer.