Neymar became the eighth most expensive signing in football history by moving to Barcelona in a deal worth 57 million euros,uniting the Brazil star with Lionel Messi in a formidable attacking partnership.
Neymar signed a five-year contract with club president Sandro Rosell yesterday,after choosing Barcelona over Real Madrid in an intense two-year bidding war between the fierce Spanish rivals.
Barcelona vice president Josep Bartomeu revealed the club had expected to pay about 40 million euros,but that “the interference of other clubs” inflated the price,an allusion to Madrid.
Only Cristiano Ronaldo,Zinedine Zidane,Zlatan Ibrahimovic,Kaka,Luis Figo,Hulk and Fernando Torres have cost a club more than Neymar.
Barcelona’s previous most expensive transfer was when it paid 45 million euros to Inter Milan for Ibrahimovic in 2009 plus sent striker Samuel Eto’o the other way.
Neymar laughed shyly when asked if he was worth the price paid for him. “No,but I am very grateful that Barcelona did what it had to do complete my childhood,to be with my idols,” he said.
Formalities done after signing his contract,the 21-year-old striker jogged onto the Camp Nou pitch for the first time in his new Barcelona kit bearing the name “Neymar Jr” on the back.
“I am very happy,very moved to be a Barcelona player and fulfill my dream,” Neymar told the tens of thousands of fans who turned out to welcome him.
Neymar quickly made it clear that he knows that he will have to play second fiddle to Messi. “I want to help the team,” he said. “I have come to add my part so that Lionel Messi continues to be the best player in the world.”
Neymar’s flight from Brazil arrived an hour behind schedule at about 1 p.m. local time. Decked out in black with sunglasses and a baseball cap,he took a chartered bus straight to Camp Nou and had his first photograph taken in front of the blue-and-burgundy club insignia.
During the traditional thumbs-up welcome shoot Neymar stepped forward and waved over the mob of photographers to the hundreds of fans who had gathered wearing Brazil and Barcelona jerseys and chanting his name. He was then rushed through two medical tests and back to the office to sign the deal.
Neymar later told a packed press hall that he had “followed his heart” when he opted to come to Barcelona and play alongside not only Messi,but the rest of Barcelona’s playmakers.
“I’m very excited to have the chance to play with all these great players that I have admired since I was a child: Messi,Xavi (Hernandez),(Andres) Iniesta,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity for me to learn and evolve.”
Even before making it official,Neymar’s new teammates had given him their vote of confidence.
Earlier yesterday,Iniesta said he expects Neymar to become even better when paired in attack with Messi,the four-time world player of the year.
“He is coming to the best possible place for him,” Iniesta said. “Let him do what he does best,that is enough. It is great news that we can count on him. Surrounded by the people he will have here,he will get better and better.
“Great players always understand one another. Leo will be make Neymar better,and Neymar will make Leo better.”
Dani Alves recalled the long line of Brazilian forwards who have triumphed at Barcelona,including Romario,Ronaldo,Rivaldo and Ronaldinho.
“He will give us a Brazilian touch,” countryman Dani Alves said of Neymar. “The others left their mark. I am sure he will,too.”
Neymar flew to the Mediterranean city on a private jet with a small entourage,including his father Neymar Silva Santos,that left Rio de Janeiro after the national side’s 2-2 draw with England on Sunday. He will return to his home country for the upcoming Confederations Cup,which Brazil is hosting in preparation for the 2014 World Cup.
Neymar led Santos on its greatest run since Pele stopped playing for the Brazilian club in the 1970s. He helped Santos win the 2010 Brazilian Cup,the 2011 Copa Libertadores and three straight Sao Paulo state championships,becoming the
team’s leading scorer in the post-Pele era with 138 goals in 230 matches.