PARIS – Neymar insisted that money was not a motivation in deciding to join Paris Saint-Germain and said Friday that he would not be burdened by his 222 million-euro ($262-million) price tag.
The Brazilian star flew in from Barcelona on a private jet for his official presentation, arriving in a city whose soccer fortunes he is expected to transform.
At a packed Paris news conference, Neymar found it “really sad” to be asked whether the riches on offer were the reason for his decision to swap one of soccer’s most illustrious teams — Barcelona has won every major honor multiple times — for a club yet to win the biggest competitions outside of France.
“I was never motivated by money,” Neymar said at the PSG stadium. “What I think about is happiness. If I was following the money I would maybe be in some other country.”
The move more than doubled the previous transfer record.
“The fact I am the most expensive player is not a burden. I am 69 kilograms (152 pounds),” Neymar said through a translator.
A record-breaking transfer leaves PSG having to squeeze every euro out of the signing — through sponsorship, merchandise and jersey sales — to ensure the club complies with European soccer’s financial regulations.
Posters of the Brazilian — accompanied by the words “Welcome to a Paris Neymar Jr 10” — were unveiled to cheers on the front of the central Paris store where fans had been waiting for hours to get their hands on jerseys emblazoned with his name.
“We look at Neymar as a brand,” PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi said. “I don’t think he is expensive because I think [the transfer] will pay more than we paid.”
Despite the huge transfer fee, PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi is convinced he has sealed a good deal.
Al-Khelaifi said that before Neymar’s signing PSG was worth one billion euros, “and now it is worth 1.5 billion.”
He added that Neymar, who has signed a five-year contract and will reportedly earn 30 million euros a year, will soon be worth “double” the price PSG paid for his services.
Al-Khelaifi also insisted PSG did not breach Financial Fair Play rules with the transfer.
“For people worrying about FFP, go and have a coffee, there are no problems,” he said. “We have been very transparent.”
With Neymar on board, supporters expect the team will achieve much more than just regain the French title from Monaco.
The transfer could also elevate the 25-year-old forward to new personal heights as he emerges from the shadow of Lionel Messi at Barcelona.
“He is one of the three best players in the world,” 21-year-old PSG fan Sacha Cope said as he waited in line outside the club store on the Champs-Elysees on Friday morning to buy a Neymar jersey.
“He comes here to win the Champions League with Paris Saint-Germain. We are expecting that. If he can do that here, for sure he will win the Ballon D’Or. He couldn’t do that at Barcelona because he was with Messi.”
It was unclear if Neymar would make his debut when PSG opens its league season Saturday against Amiens, a team making its top-flight debut. But Neymar said he is “always hungry for football, and I think I can play.”
Philippe Chembon, a fan, flaunted a receipt showing he spent 623.50 euros ($740) on four Neymar jerseys.
“This is a very big moment for PSG,” said the 63-year-old Chembon, who is older than the club.
When word spread late Thursday that Neymar could be staying at Le Royal Monceau in Paris, fans started to descend on the hotel. They weren’t deterred from hanging around through the night, despite discovering Neymar wouldn’t arrive until the morning.
“We think Neymar will help us to dream bigger and win everything,” 20-year-old fan Samy El Amrani Jorey said outside the hotel at 1:30 a.m., adopting the club’s motto.