Neymar opts to join rival Messi at Barcelona

Brazilian ace Neymar will join Barcelona. Picture: Getty
Brazilian ace Neymar will join Barcelona. Picture: Getty
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BRAZILIAN superstar Neymar has revealed that he will be joining Barcelona after the Confederations Cup, the latest addition to a star-filled Barça squad that already includes four-times Fifa Player of the Year Lionel Messi as well as Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta.

The decision came on Saturday, a day after Neymar’s Brazilian club, Santos, said they had accepted offers from both Barcelona and Spanish rivals Real Madrid, and that it was up to Neymar to pick where he wanted to play.

The 21-year-old striker made the announcement on Twitter and Instagram.

“I wouldn’t be able to wait until Monday. My friends and my family already know of my decision,” he wrote. “On Monday I will sign a contract with Barcelona.”

Barcelona later confirmed the deal on their own Twitter account. “FC Barcelona have reached an agreement with Santos for Neymar,” the club said. “The Brazilian player will join FC Barcelona for the next five seasons.”

The club praised the player on their website, calling him “one of the most promising footballers on the planet”.

Messi was quoted as saying last week that Neymar would be “a wonderful signing” for Barcelona.

Neymar didn’t give any details on the offer he and Santos had accepted from Barcelona. He was due to play his last match for Santos yesterday in the team’s Brazilian league match against Flamengo. “I want to thank Santos fans for these nine incredible years. My feelings for the club and the fans will never change,” he said. “I made it sure that I play [this last match] so I can have the opportunity to once again enter the field wearing the team’s jersey and to hear the fans chant my name.”

Neymar led Santos to their greatest run since Pele stopped playing for the club in the 1970s, helping the team win the 2010 Brazilian Cup, the 2011 Copa Libertadores and three straight Sao Paulo state championships. He is the club’s leading scorer in the post-Pele era with 138 goals in 229 matches.

He’s also considered the national team’s key player for the forthcoming Confederations Cup and World Cup, which Brazil will host next year.

Neymar will join Barcelona after the Confederations Cup, when the transfer window in Europe opens in July.

The signing ends years of speculation about which team would be the first to persuade the Brazilian sensation to make the move to Europe. Neymar has never hidden his desire to one day play for Barcelona but last week Real Madrid also became a front-runner to sign him.

Santos vice president Odilio Rodrigues said on Friday that both offers were “similar”, but hinted that Neymar already had a “gentleman’s agreement” with Barcelona.

Neymar learned the details of the offers late on Friday and said he would look at both carefully before deciding. He said he was “very proud” that the Spanish powerhouses were interested in him, calling it “one of the happiest moments” of his life.

Brazilian media reported that Real Madrid were willing to pay Santos €35million (£30m) for Neymar, €7m more than Barcelona. Real Madrid also reportedly offered a bigger salary but the Spanish media reported that the total Barcelona would spend on Neymar could reach about €50m.

Santos officially rejected a €35m offer for Neymar from Chelsea in 2010 and he eventually re-signed with the club until the 2014 World Cup, with a buyout clause of €65 million.

Santos had been trying to sell Neymar as quickly as possible because, in six months, the player would be allowed to sign a pre-contract with any other club and the Sao Paulo team would not get anything in return.

Neymar is an idol on the field and a celebrity off it in Brazil. He appears in dozens of television commercials and his image is plastered on billboards across the country, making him by far the best paid athlete in Brazil. This week, he topped the list of most marketable athletes in the world in a report published by SportsPro magazine, finishing ahead of Messi and golfer Rory McIlroy.

But he is also criticised by some in Europe for his dives and alleged attempts to fake injuries. Pele has repeatedly said that Neymar has the potential to be the best player in the world, even better than Messi, but he is also one of the critics who has recently said Neymar should try to stop diving so much.

Neymar is also criticised for disappointing performances at decisive moments when he plays for Brazil. His recent lacklustre performances with the national team even attracted loud jeers from home fans.

Meanwhile, Radamel Falcao is set to have a medical with Monaco today before moving to the Ligue 1 club for €60m (£51,295,000), according to reports in Spain.

The Colombia striker has long been linked with a move away from Atletico Madrid, with Manchester United and Chelsea mooted as possible destinations. However, it appears that Monaco have jumped to the head of the queue, with the newly-promoted team having already recruited highly- rated Porto pair Joao Moutinho and James Rodriguez for a combined fee of around £60m.

President Dmitry Rybolovlev is highly ambitious, evidenced by his capture of the Porto pair, who are former team-mates of Falcao who has scored 32 goals in 36 appearances this season.

Atletico manager Diego Simeone has already said he will not bear any grudge if the 27-year-old leaves, and last night’s Primera Division match against Real Mallorca at the Vicente Calderon is looking increasingly likely to be his last home game for the Rojiblancos.