SANT JOAN DESPI, Aug 2: Neymar has told Barcelona that he plans to leave the club, with a blockbuster move to Paris Saint-Germain seemingly imminent.
The club said Wednesday that the Brazil striker told his teammates “that he had the intention of leaving the club and seeking his future elsewhere, and the coach has given him permission to leave training.”
PSG is rumored to be ready to pay his release clause of 222 million euros ($262 million). That would dwarf the 105 million euros (then $116 million) that Manchester United paid for France midfielder Paul Pogba last year.
Barcelona said Neymar did not specify where he wants to play next, but the only club speculated to be after him — and one of few which could handle the cost of the transfer — is the Qatari-owned PSG.
PSG did not answer messages from The Associated Press seeking comment.
Barcelona said Neymar left the training ground 30 minutes after arriving on Wednesday. He had arrived to Spain on Tuesday night after holding publicity events for both his personal brand and Barcelona in China.
Last year, Neymar signed a new contract with Barcelona that tied him to the Catalan club through 2021.
Both Barcelona club president Josep Bartomeu and Spanish league president Javier Tebas have said they will consider filing a complaint to UEFA if they think the PSG transfer violates financial fair play rules.
With his lightning-quick feet, creative instincts and scoring touch, Neymar helped maintain Barcelona as one of the top clubs in Europe for the past four seasons as he blossomed into a worldwide star.
He teamed up with Lionel Messi and Luis Saurez to make an almost unstoppable attack. Neymar scored 105 goals — some of them true gems — and was a key playmaker for Barcelona as it won a Champions League, two Spanish leagues, three Copa del Reys, one Club World Cup, a UEFA Super Cup and two Spanish Super Cups.
Yet, even before this drawn-out saga, Neymar also provided more than one headache for his club.
His transfer from Brazilian club Santos in 2013 became the source of a legal dispute that has dogged Barcelona even since. Barcelona said at the time that his transfer cost 57 million euros, while an investigative judge says that the real cost was at least 83.3 million euros.
Now Bartomeu and predecessor Sandro Rosell, who resigned as president of the club amid the transfer scandal, are facing trial on charges of fraudulent administration.
Neymar has also mixed his flair for fancy goals with bouts of immaturity on the field, often needlessly taunting defenders and trying to upstage them with his dribbling skills.
But nobody doubts Neymar is one of the greatest talents of his generation.
PSG saw it first-hand in last season’s Champions League. In his most memorable performance at Camp Nou, Neymar scored two goals and set up two more to lead Barcelona to a 6-1 rout to overturn PSG’s 4-0 first-leg win in the last 16.
Unless PSG gets last-second jitters, Neymar will take over a team that is searching for a leader who can achieve elusive Champions League success.-AP