Neymar bids tearful farewell in last game for Santos
Associated Press in Sao Paulo
Neymar was unable to hold back the tears in his last match with Santos before joining Barcelona.
The 21-year-old cried profusely as the national anthem was sung before the match against Flamengo in the opening round of the Brazilian league.
"It was very emotional," he said as he bid farewell to his team and fans. "The movie of my life since I was a little kid came to my mind at that moment."
Neymar announced his move to Barcelona late on Saturday, a day after Santos accepted offers from both the Spanish champions and Real Madrid, and said the striker should pick.
He was set to sign a five-year contract with Barcelona yesterday, becoming the latest addition to a star-filled roster that already includes four-time Fifa Player of the Year Lionel Messi, Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta.
"It's a dream come true to be able to play for a team like Barcelona. I've always dreamed about doing that, and now it's happening," Neymar said. "It will be a great honour to play with players like Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, Dani Alves."
He played on Sunday because he wanted to wear Santos' jersey one more time and hear the fans chant his name again. But when he was introduced, he was booed by the Flamengo fans dominating the crowd at the Estadio Nacional in Brasilia.
He cried during the anthem as he stood alongside his teammates, closing his eyes and dropping his head down. He said he also cried a lot at the team's hotel before heading to the stadium, and in the changing room as well.
"It's not easy for him, but we tried to help him as much as possible," Santos defender Leo said.
Neymar did not play particularly well in the match, though, as his side struggled in the 0-0 draw. He had a few chances in the first half, the most significant a missed shot from outside the penalty area in the 16th minute. He almost scored with a well-placed free kick in the 69th, but goalkeeper Felipe saved before the ball reached the top corner.
More than 60,000 attended the match, which also served as the final test at the venue ahead of the Confederations Cup. It will host the opener of the World Cup warm-up tournament on June 15, when Neymar will be back for Brazil's game against Japan.
Neymar is leaving Santos a year before the end of his contract, which was intended to keep him with the club until the 2014 World Cup.
He began playing for Santos as a child and quickly became their biggest star since Pele left in the 1970s. Neymar joined the senior team in 2009 and has helped the club win six titles, including the 2010 Brazilian Cup, the 2011 Copa Libertadores and three straight Sao Paulo state championships. He is Santos' leading scorer in the post-Pele era, having netted 138 goals in 230 games.
"It's a great honour to have played for Santos for so long, I've been here nearly my entire life," Neymar said. "Today, it ends part of my history with the club, but I'll be back. I'm saying goodbye, but I'll be back."
Fans faced queues of up to one kilometre to get into the Estadio Nacional, one of the most expensive stadiums built for the Confederations Cup and World Cup. Its lighting system failed partially, but it did not affect the match's progress.