Neymar's getaway to PSG hits a snag

AP
Spain's La Liga rejects payment of a record-breaking release clause that would allow Neymar to leave Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain in a new twist to the transfer saga.
AP
AFP

Fans wait at the entrance of the Paris Saint-Germain’s Camp des Loges training center in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, western Paris, on August 3, 2017, ahead of Brazil striker Neymar’s expected to arrival to finalize his world-record transfer from Barcelona to the French Ligue 1 club.

Neymar's plan to leave Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain on a record-smashing transfer has hit a snag.

The Spanish league said on Thursday that representatives of Neymar tried unsuccessfully to pay the 222-million euro (US$262 million) buyout clause that would release the Brazil star from his contract with Barcelona and clear his signing for the PSG.

But the league refused to accept the payment and won't act as an intermediary for the player, an official said. League president Javier Tebas said on Wednesday that the league wouldn't help the forward leave for PSG because it considers that the money funding the move breaks UEFA's Financial Fair Play rules.

The league's refusal does not stop Neymar's exit from Barcelona as the money can be paid directly to the club.

The payment of the clause would shatter the previous world record transfer of 105 million euros (then US$116 million) that Manchester United paid for France midfielder Paul Pogba last year.

The Spanish league official said that Juan de Dios Crespo, a Spanish lawyer representing Neymar, arrived at the league offices accompanied by three Brazilians with the intention of depositing the buyout clause. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with league policy.

Television images showed Neymar's representatives remaining tightlipped as they worked their way through a crowd of journalists upon entering and leaving the league offices in Madrid.

A Barcelona official, who spoke anonymously in line with club policy, said that the club "is waiting to see how the situation develops". He declined to make further comments on the league's refusal to accept the payment.

Neymar ended weeks of silence by telling Barcelona's executives, players and coach on Wednesday that his intention was to leave the club after four seasons. His representative, Wagner Ribeiro, then confirmed the widespread speculation that had been building all summer that PSG was willing to pay the record sum to trigger the release clause.

Barcelona spokesman Josep Vives said that the club would not negotiate and would demand the full payment of the clause. Last year, Neymar signed a new contract with Barcelona that tied him to the Catalan club through 2021.

Tebas told Spanish sports daily AS on Wednesday that he believes PSG breaks UEFA's FFP rules. The club's Qatari owners are closely linked to the energy-rich ruling family.

"We won't accept the money from a club like PSG which doesn't belong to La Liga ... and especially when it is breaking laws and rules," Tebas told AS, claiming "the case of PSG is a clear example of financial doping by a state-supported club".

Fait accompli

While Neymar's move was delayed in Spain, across the border many were treating it as a fait accompli.

PSG president Nasser al-Khalaifi declined to comment on the Spanish league's decision to refuse payment when asked about the issue at a charity event where he met with French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday.

Macron took the opportunity to tell PSG's boss "congratulations, I understand there's been some good news" regarding Neymar's imminent arrival. France's budget minister also had reason to celebrate. Gerald Darmanin told France-Inter radio "It's better that this football player pays his taxes in France than elsewhere".

Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas launched a barb at his big-spending rival in his message posted on Twitter: "Congrats to Nasser for the realization of this worldwide unique operation: I'm impatient to know about the real costs of the operation."

The French League (LFP) issued a statement later saying it "did not understand" the refusal of La Liga to accept the payment of the release clause for Neymar, Reuters reported.

"The LFP asks the Liga to abide by the FIFA rules and its responsibilities," the statement said.

"The LFP supports Paris Saint-Germain and wishes Neymar to join the Ligue 1 championship."

Spain's Marca newspaper reported that Neymar and his advisers would turn to world governing body FIFA, requesting a provisional transfer to PSG.

As the day dragged on videos emerged of Barcelona fans burning Neymar shirts, while teammate Luis Suarez posted a farewell message on Instagram.

"My friend I wish you the best in everything that comes!!!" he said. "Also thank you for your support, for everything that I learned with you and for the unique moments that we spent together!! Keep like this and never change, love you little bro."

At 25 years old, Neymar is already one of soccer's top talents.

Neymar scored 105 goals playing alongside Lionel Messi and was a key playmaker for Barcelona as it won a UEFA Champions League, two Spanish leagues, three Copa del Reys, one Club World Cup, a UEFA Super Cup and two Spanish Super Cups.

The expectation at PSG will be for him to lead it to elusive UCL success.


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