BARCELONA/SAO PAULO: Brazilian superstar Neymar has reportedly changed his mind about staying in Brazilian domestic football with Santos until the 2014 World Cup finals there.
The player and his father, who is his closest adviser, have yet to sign a contract extension tying him to Santos until 2016 which had been created in the expectation that the club would collect a potentially world record fee after the World Cup.
However reports in both Brazil and Spain from sources close to the family insist that the player himself has become increasingly concerned that his technical progress and career is stagnating and that he should not wait any longer before moving to Europe.
Barcelona are considered favourites after already reaching a preliminary agreement with player and club.
Neymar, who has proved largely underwhelming on his occasional appearances in front of European crowds, has an opportunity to quell doubts about his abilities when he plays forBrazilagainstItalytoday inGeneva.
He was outshone by Leo Messi when Santos were crushed 4-0 by Barcelona in the 2011 Club World Cup Final and nor was he the decisive influence Brazilhad hoped at the Olympic Games in London last year. He made little impression on last month’s Wembley return, either, in Brazil’s 2-1 defeat by England in a friendly.
Pele, greatest player ever produced by Santos, has been one of Neymar’s recent critics.
“He is an excellent player,” said the World Cup-winning veteran of a bygone era, “but, because he has no real international experience and, outside Brazil, he under-performs.”
While Neymar has stayed at home, he has seen Brazil team-mates such as Oscar (Chelsea) and Lucas (Paris Saint-Germain) expand their skills and their status on the international stage by taking the European plunge.
Neymar has insisted to the Brazilian media: “I am happy where I am,” and rejected accusations by European fans and opposing players that he is too eager to dive for ‘easy’ penalties and free kicks.
The hitch for any club seeking to buy Neymar is resolving the financial complexities over his highly-lucrative image rights.
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