It wasn’t about the money, says £520,000-per-week Neymar

Brazilian superstar Neymar poses with his new Paris Saint Germain jersey following his world record 222 million euro transfer from Barcelona. Picture: Lionel Bonaventure/AFP/Getty Images
Brazilian superstar Neymar poses with his new Paris Saint Germain jersey following his world record 222 million euro transfer from Barcelona. Picture: Lionel Bonaventure/AFP/Getty Images
Share this article
0
Have your say

Neymar, the world’s most expensive footballer, insists it was ambition and not the lure of riches that convinced him to swap Barcelona for Paris St Germain.

Brazil forward Neymar, 25, has signed a five-year deal with ambitious Ligue 1 club PSG after his legal representatives paid Barcelona €222 million (£200.6m) to release him from his contract at the Nou Camp.

Neymar, who won the Champions League and two La Liga titles with Barcelona, will reportedly earn €30m (£27m) net per year at his new club, or around €575,000 (£520,000) each week after tax.

But the man described as “the best player in the world” by Paris St Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi on Friday stressed his sole motivation was helping the French side achieve their dream of conquering Europe.

He said: “I wanted something bigger, a bigger challenge. This was about ambition.

“My heart told me that it was time to sign for Paris St Germain. It was the right time to leave Barcelona.

“I was never motivated by money. I thought above all else about the happiness of my family, regardless of money.

“I’m really sad that some people think this is the case.”

When asked how he felt about becoming the most valuable player of all time, surpassing Paul Pogba following his €105m (£89m) move to Manchester United last summer, Neymar joked: “It’s not an extra burden. I weigh 69kg, and I’ll remain at 69kg.”

PSG’s Qatari owner Al-Khelaifi had no second thoughts when it came to launching an historic bid for Neymar, who excelled alongside Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez at Barcelona. The trio formed the ‘MSN’ strike force.

“For me Neymar is the best player in the world, so we wanted to have the best player in the world,” Al-Khelaifi told a press conference.

“Neymar came here to write new pages in the history of Paris St Germain. With him our project will grow even stronger. The league will become more interesting for everyone.

“More transfers? The best player in the world is here. Let’s enjoy Neymar.”

When asked about the unprecedented transfer fee received by Barcelona, Al-Khelaifi added: “Today, it might seem expensive. But in two years’ time it might not anymore.

“We will make money together in the coming years as it is a two-brand project. For me it’s a fantastic transfer.

“Concerning Financial Fair Play, we have always been transparent.”

One challenge Neymar has accepted is leading PSG’s quest to reclaim the Ligue 1 title from Monaco, who in May denied the Parisians a fifth straight French championship.

That mission starts at home to newly-promoted Amiens on Saturday afternoon and Neymar is itching to get started.

“I’m always hungry for football,” he said. “If I can play tomorrow, why not?

“I will speak with the staff and wait for the green light, but this is what I love to do - play football.”

When rumours of the big-money move began emerging in France and Spain, Neymar managed to keep his counsel while he played dutifully for Barcelona on their pre-season tour of the United States.

Only weeks before the switch went through, Barcelona defender Gerard Pique posted a picture of himself with Neymar on Instagram with the caption: “Se queda” - meaning “He stays”.

Neymar, who will play alongside his Brazilian friends Dani Alves and Thiago Silva at PSG, said of the Pique incident: “He published the picture but I’d asked him not to. I had not yet made my decision.

“He wanted to express his feelings and I respect him, he’s a great friend. The first person I told I was leaving was the Barca coach [Ernesto Valverde]. He was the most important person to tell.”

Al-Khelaifi added: “I want to add that during the process of contract negotiations, Neymar was trying to slow things down to show respect to his fans and his team-mates, so he could leave with his head held high.

“He acted like a gentleman. When you compare that to how other players might have acted, he did very well.”

The Santos academy graduate later demonstrated his ball-juggling skills on the Parc des Princes pitch before venturing outside to meet supporters alongside Al-Khelaifi.

Barcelona, meanwhile, have passed details of the deal to Uefa so the governing body might “determine the disciplinary responsibilities” concerning issues of Financial Fair Play and adherence to European transfer rules.

International players’ association FIFPro has demanded a European Commission investigation into what it calls “anti-competitive, unjustified and illegal” Fifa transfer rules.