Neymar joined French club Paris Saint-Germain on Thursday, despite an attempt earlier in the day by La Liga to stall his transfer from Barcelona.
It all began in Madrid, where a Spanish lawyer representing Neymar arrived at La Liga headquarters bearing a check for $262 million, the record-smashing transfer fee that must be paid to Barcelona for any other team to secure the services of the 25-year-old Brazilian soccer sensation. La Liga officials rejected the payment, believing PSG’s attempt to sign Neymar away from Barcelona would violate European soccer’s Financial Fair Play rules, which forbid clubs from running massive deficits to sign big-name players.
“We can confirm that the player’s lawyers came to the La Liga offices this morning to deposit the clause and that it has been rejected,” the league said in a statement. “That’s all the information we are giving out at this moment.”
But later Thursday, Barcelona announced that Neymar’s representatives went to the club itself to deliver the check, which they had little choice but to accept. Barcelona echoed La Liga’s stance that it would be passing along this information to European soccer’s governing body for review, but there’s little else it can do in the short term: By buying out his contract, Neymar became essentially a free agent and could sign with whomever he chooses. He chose PSG.
“On Thursday afternoon Neymar Jr.’s legal representatives visited in person the Club’s offices and made the payment of 222 million euros in the player’s name with regards to the unilateral termination of the contract that united both parties,” Barcelona said in a statement. “As such, the Club will pass on to UEFA the details of the above operation so that they can determine the disciplinary responsibilities that may arise from this case.”
PSG announced the superstar signed a five-year contract Thursday. Nasser Al-Khelaifi, president of PSG, called him “one of the very best players in world [soccer].”
“His winning mentality, strength of character and sense of leadership have made him into a great player,” Al-Khelaifi said in a statement.
Neymar looks forward to the challenges he faces in France.
“The biggest challenge, what most motivated me to join my new teammates is to help the club to conquer the titles that their fans want” Neymar said in a statement released by PSG. “Paris Saint-Germain’s ambition attracted me to the club, along with the passion and the energy this brings. I played four seasons in Europe and I feel ready to take the challenge. ”
According to the Guardian, PSG is aware of the Financial Fair Play implications of its Neymar acquisition and is working to stay within the rules, possibly by selling off some of its other high-priced players to shed salaries or by working out new sponsorship or marketing deals to increase revenue (Neymar’s presence should help this cause). Plus, the AP’s Rob Harris says PSG can spread Neymar’s transfer fee over the length of his contract, which is expected to be for five years.
Harris says PSG expects its revenue to rise by at least 30 percent with Neymar in the fold.
In any case, this won’t come until play until June 30, because European teams’ financials are measured by how much they spend and take in from July 1 to June 30. PSG has months to figure out the accounting and is quite familiar with the rules, considering UEFA fined the team 20 million Euros and limited its Champions League squad to 21 players over a Financial Fair Play violation in 2014.
On Wednesday, Neymar visited with his Barcelona teammates to say goodbye and to inform team officials that he intended to leave for PSG. He then went to Portugal to take his PSG physical, the final step before the transfer can be approved. PSG’s Ligue 1 regular season opener is Saturday against Amiens.
By virtue of its Qatari backing, Paris Saint-Germain is one of the richest soccer clubs in the world and has long been one of France’s most popular and successful teams. But French professional soccer clubs have neither the fervent local following nor the global reach of the top teams in La Liga, England’s Premier League or the German Bundesliga, and signing Neymar would give PSG and Ligue 1 a known star who likely would spur more avid local and worldwide interest in both.