Neymar's potential world record transfer to Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) moved a step closer after he informed teammates that he was leaving Barcelona, a spokesperson for the Catalan club confirmed yesterday.
"The player came to train as scheduled and announced to his teammates that he is leaving," said the source adding, "The coach has given him permission to not train and manage issues regarding his future." Speculation over the 25-year-old's future has dominated the first few weeks of new Barca boss Ernesto Valverde's reign with PSG reportedly willing to pay Neymar's 222-million-euro ($262 million) buyout clause.
Barcelona says Neymar's 222 million euro release clause must be paid in full if the Brazil striker wants to leave, according to AP. The Catalan club said Neymar and his father met with club officials yesterday to say he wanted to leave, with a move to Paris Saint-Germain seemingly imminent. The club says that it "referred them to the release clause in his current contract, which as of July 1 is 222 million euros, which must be paid in full."
If PSG pays the clause, it would shatter the previous world record transfer of 105 million euros (then $116 million) that Manchester United paid for France midfielder Paul Pogba last year.
Neymar arrived back in Barcelona Tuesday from a fleeting promotional tour to China, before turning up for training next morning. But, the Brazilian left less than an hour later, according to AFP. 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 four-year contract he signed last year.
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 (FFP) rules. 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 the Madrid sports daily AS on yesterday.
"Especially when this club is infringing rules and laws."
Barcelona have also threatened to report PSG to UEFA over any potential breach of FFP. PSG have already been fined and saw their Champions League squad limited by UEFA for breaches of FFP in 2014. Winning the Champions League for a first time is the dream driving PSG owners at Oryx Qatar Sports Investments (QSI) to fund a deal that could herald 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-finals, 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. Prizing 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 five-time World Player of the Year Lionel 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. Yet, one justification for Neymar to jump ship, on top of the reported offer to triple his salary to 30 million euros net a season, is a desire to move out of Messi's shadow to challenge the Argentine and Cristiano Ronaldo's decade-long dominance to win the Ballon d'Or.