BARCELONA, Spain – Neymar has made his first getaway attempt.
The Spanish league said Thursday that representatives of Neymar tried unsuccessfully to pay the 222 million euro ($262 million) buyout clause that would release the Brazil star from his contract with Barcelona and clear his signing for Paris Saint-Germain.
But the league refused to accept the payment and won’t act as an intermediary for the player, an official told press. League president Javier Tebas said on Wednesday that the league wouldn’t help the forward leave for PSG because it considers that the money funding the move breaks UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules.
The league’s refusal does not stop Neymar’s exit from Barcelona as the money can be paid directly to the club.
The payment of the clause would shatter the previous world record transfer of 105 million euros (then $116 million) that Manchester United paid for France midfielder Paul Pogba last year.
Barcelona declined to comment on the league’s refusal to accept the payment when contacted by the press.
The Spanish league official said that Juan de Dios Crespo, a Spanish lawyer representing Neymar, arrived at the league offices accompanied by three Brazilians with the intention of depositing the buyout clause. The official spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity in line with league policy.
Television images showed Neymar’s representatives remaining tight-lipped as they worked their way through a crowd of journalists upon entering and leaving the league offices in Madrid.
Neymar ended weeks of silence by telling Barcelona’s executives, players and coach on Wednesday that his intention was to leave the club after four seasons. His representative, Wagner Ribeiro, then confirmed the widespread speculation that had been building all summer that PSG was willing to pay the record sum to trigger the release clause.
Barcelona spokesman Josep Vives said that the club would not negotiate and would demand the full payment of the clause. Last year, Neymar signed a new contract with Barcelona that tied him to the Catalan club through 2021.
Tebas told Spanish sports daily AS on Wednesday that he believes PSG breaks UEFA’s FFP rules because its Qatari owners are closely linked to the energy-rich ruling family.
“We won’t accept the money from a club like PSG which doesn’t belong to la Liga … and especially when it is breaking laws and rules,” Tebas told AS, claiming “the case of PSG is a clear example of financial doping by a state-supported club.”
PSG president Nasser Al-Khalaifi declined to comment on the Spanish league’s decision to refuse payment when asked about the issue at a charity event where he met with French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday.
Macron took the opportunity to tell PSG’s boss “congratulations, I understand there’s been some good news” regarding Neymar’s imminent arrival. France’s budget minister also had reason to celebrate. Gérald Darmanin told France-Inter radio “It’s better that this football player pays his taxes in France than elsewhere.”
Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas launched a barb at his big-spending rival in his message posted on Twitter: “Congrats to Nasser for the realization of this worldwide unique operation: I’m impatient to know about the real costs of the operation.”
At 25 years old, Neymar is already one of soccer’s top talents.
Neymar scored 105 goals playing alongside Lionel Messi 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.