Neymar, Brazil’s most marketable soccer player, will join world player of the year Lionel Messi in Spanish champion Barcelona’s attack next season after negotiating a five-year contract.
“Barcelona and Santos have agreed to terms for Neymar da Silva Santos Junior,” Barcelona said in a statement. “The Brazilian forward will don the Blaugrana strip for the next five seasons. The 21-year-old is one of the most promising football players on the planet.”
Neither team disclosed terms of the deal, which Neymar said will be signed tomorrow. Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper said Santos, which had rejected two previous offers from Barcelona in recent days, agreed to sell Neymar after the Catalonia-based team raised its bid to 74 million reais ($36 million). Brazilian media also said Santos accepted an offer from Real Madrid.
Neymar’s impending move to Spain ends a three-year drama over the future of Brazil’s most bankable soccer star, who France Football magazine ranks as the fifth best-paid player in the world with annual income of 20 million euros ($25.8 million). Since emerging in Santos’s first team as a 17-year-old Neymar has been likened to Pele, who spent much of his career with Santos.
Two days ago Neymar’s manager Eduardo Musa said in a telephone interview the striker would prefer to see out his contract with Santos that ends after Brazil hosts next summer’s World Cup.
Speed and Skill
Santos, in a statement posted on its website, said it made “every effort to keep him in Brazil” and tried to get Neymar to extend his contract but “it was not possible to compete with the conditions offered by the proposals received from abroad which affected the decision of the player to review his professional life.”
Neymar, who has 138 goals in 229 games for Santos, has been coveted by soccer’s biggest clubs. With a mixture of speed and skill, he’s become a starter for the Brazilian national team.
In 2011, a goal he scored in a league game against Flamengo was voted the best goal in professional soccer by global governing body FIFA. That same year he helped Santos win South America’s top club competition, the Libertadores Cup, for the first time since 1963. Still, at times he’s struggled on foreign soil. He was part of the Brazil team beaten by underdog Mexico in the 2012 Olympic soccer gold medal match in London and was on the field as Messi scored twice in a 4-0 victory for Barcelona over Santos in the FIFA Club World Cup a year earlier.
“My feelings for the club and the fans will never change,” Neymar said a posting on social network Instagram. “Titles, goals, dribbling celebrations and songs that fans created for me will be forever in my heart.”
Neymar is one of Brazil’s most recognizable celebrities, with sponsorship deals with multinationals including Nike Inc. (NKE:US), Volkswagen AG (VOW) and Unilever NV. (UNA) Billionaire Eike Batista recruited Neymar for his venture with IMG Worldwide Inc. that will steer his career in Brazil and beyond.
Complicating discussions over a move to Europe has been the complex structure over Neymar’s transfer rights. Santos will get 55 percent of the fee, the remainder will go to supermarket chain owner Delcir Sonda, whose company DIS in 2009 paid 5.5 million reais for a 40 percent stake in Neymar’s transfer rights, and a company called Terceira Estrela Investimentos S.A., which paid 3.5 million reais for a 5 percent stake in 2011.
Neymar’s fame has helped Santos’s revenue soar.
In its statement Santos detailed how the player’s presence helped the club’s business operations, saying membership had increased to more than 65,000 from 17,000 and revenue tripled since Neymar’s debut in 2009.
Sales at Santos have risen to 199.8 million reais from 70.4 million reais since 2009, according to data compiled by Amir Somoggi, a management consultant to Santos and other top Brazilian clubs. Sponsorship receipts grew to 50.3 million reais in 2012 from 17.8 million reais in 2009 and ticket revenue almost doubled to 17.4 million reais during the same time, according to his figures.
“More than an idol, Neymar became a myth not only for Santos but for Brazilians and football fans around the world,” Santos said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Tariq Panja in Rio de Janeiro at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christopher Elser at email@example.com