Brazil forward Neymar is expected to complete a world record £199m transfer to Paris Saint-Germain in the next 48 hours after Barcelona appeared to accept defeat in their desperate bid to keep him.
The 25-year-old is set to sign a five-year deal worth £515,000 per week – almost £27m a year – with PSG after the Qatar-backed French club offered to trigger a buy-out clause in his Barca contract.
He will also become football’s most expensive player by a distance, with the £199m (€222m) fee more than double the current record, Manchester United’s £89m purchase of Paul Pogba last summer.
Barcelona had vowed not to sell Neymar and this week threatened to report PSG to European governing body Uefa over a potential breach of Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules if they continued to pursue the player.
The president of the Spanish top division even indicated on Tuesday that they would refuse to hand over Neymar’s registration if Uefa refused to act, saying: “If PSG come with the money we will not accept it.”
But Uefa insisted the transfer would not be “judged in advance”, only once PSG’s three-year accounts were submitted for FFP monitoring, and by Wednesday morning Barca had adopted a more pragmatic tone.
What Barca said
“Neymar, accompanied by his father and agent, has informed FC Barcelona this morning of his decision to leave the club,” the Catalan team said.
“Faced with this position, the club has informed them they refer to the buy-out clause of his existing contract which as of 1 July totals €222m which will have to be deposited in its entirety.
“Furthermore, in reply to the claim for the contract extension bonus, the club has once again made it clear that the amount remains deposited with a notary until the case is resolved.
“The player remains under contract at FC Barcelona but with temporary permission to not take part in training sessions.”
Messi says goodbye
Barca star Lionel Messi all but confirmed Neymar’s departure with an Instagram post saying it had been “an enormous pleasure” to play alongside him for the past four years.
The former Santos prodigy’s agent Wagner Ribeiro told Spanish reporters on Wednesday that he anticipated the buy-out fee being paid later that day and that the player could sign for PSG by “the end of this week”.
Neymar’s move will be seen as a huge coup for PSG, who have failed to translate their domestic dominance under Qatari ownership into European success and lost their Ligue 1 title to Monaco last season.
PSG and FFP
PSG fell foul of FFP rules in 2014 after being found to have exceeded the threshold of permitted losses and incurred a fine and squad restrictions. They complied and the sanctions were lifted a year later.
The transfer has also interested Middle East commentators, with suggestions that the blockbusting deal is a show of strength from a Qatari regime currently in dispute with its powerful neighbours.