PARIS: Neymar, at $222m now the world’s most expensive footballer, has insisted it was ambition and not the lure of riches that convinced him to swap Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain.
The 25-year-old Brazil forward has signed a five-year deal with ambitious Ligue 1 club PSG after his legal representatives paid out his Barcelona contract to release him from his contract at the Nou Camp.
Neymar, who won the Champions League and two LaLiga titles with Barcelona, will reportedly earn 30 million euros (£27million) net per year at his new club, or around 575,000 euros (£520,000) each week after tax.
But the man described as “the best player in the world” by Paris St Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi on Friday stressed his sole motivation was helping the French side achieve their dream of conquering Europe.
He said: “I wanted something bigger, a bigger challenge. This was about ambition.
“My heart told me that it was time to sign for Paris St Germain. It was the right time to leave Barcelona.
“I was never motivated by money. I thought above all else about the happiness of my family, regardless of money.
“I’m really sad that some people think this is the case.”
When asked how he felt about becoming the most valuable player of all time, surpassing Paul Pogba following his 105 million euro (£89million) move to Manchester United last summer, Neymar joked: “It’s not an extra burden.
“I weigh 69kg, and I’ll remain at 69kg.”
PSG’s Qatari owner Al-Khelaifi had no second thoughts when it came to launching an historic bid for Neymar, who excelled alongside Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez at Barcelona. The trio formed the ‘MSN’ strike force.
“For me Neymar is the best player in the world, so we wanted to have the best player in the world,” Al-Khelaifi told a press conference.
“Neymar came here to write new pages in the history of Paris St Germain. With him our project will grow even stronger. The league will become more interesting for everyone.
“More transfers? The best player in the world is here. Let’s enjoy Neymar.”
When asked about the unprecedented transfer fee received by Barcelona, Al-Khelaifi added: “Today, it might seem expensive. But in two years’ time it might not anymore.
“We will make money together in the coming years as it is a two-brand project. For me it’s a fantastic transfer.
“Concerning Financial Fair Play, we have always been transparent.”
One challenge Neymar has accepted is leading PSG’s quest to reclaim the Ligue 1 title from Monaco, who in May denied the Parisians a fifth straight French hampionship.
That mission starts at home to newly-promoted Amiens on Saturday afternoon and Neymar is itching to get started.
“I’m always hungry for football,” he said. “If I can play tomorrow, why not?
“I will speak with the staff and wait for the green light, but this is what I love to do – play football.”
Meanwhile, Neymar’s move to PSG has encouraged international players’ association FIFPro to demand an investigation into “anti-competitive, unjustified and illegal” FIFA transfer rules.
On Friday morning FIFPro general secretary Theo van Seggelen bemoaned what he sees as a drift towards dominance of world football by “a select group of rich, mostly European-based clubs”.
In a statement, he said: “FIFPro is calling on the European Commission to investigate the flow of money via transfer fees within the EU territory to understand their impact on competitive balance in the region.
“The world-record transfer of the Brazilian Neymar from Barcelona to Paris St Germain is the latest example of how football is ever more the domain of a select group of rich, mostly European-based clubs.
“Given much of football’s financial activity occurs within Europe, where significant transfer fees are exchanged between clubs, FIFPro is asking the European Commission to launch of thorough investigation of the transfer rules it approved in 2001 and which are now in need of urgent review.
“Stimulating reform of the current transfer system rules is a priority for FIFPro in order to protect the rights of players as workers and safeguard the best interests of the game.
“Football’s enormous wealth is trapped, research shows, within a few leagues and clubs when it could be redistributed more efficiently and fairly to help protect competitive balance, which is one of the fundamental objectives of the transfer system.
“FIFPro claims an inflated and distorted market, with escalating transfer fees at the heart of it, has helped to destroy competitive balance. The transfer rules governed by FIFA are anti-competitive, unjustified and illegal.
“FIFPro’s legal complaint to the competition unit of the European Commission, lodged in late 2015, is designed to help rebalance football and bring an end to the transfer market madness, for the good of the game, all players, clubs and fans.”