Neymar silent on world record Paris Saint-Germain switch after returning to Barcelona
Brazilian travels back to Spain from China via Dubai as speculation grows French side are prepared to meet €222 million (HK$2 billion) buyout clause
Brazilian superstar Neymar landed back in Barcelona on Tuesday evening, avoiding making any comment on the ongoing speculation about a possible world record transfer to Paris Saint-Germain.
The 25-year-old Barcelona forward was travelling back from China and had earlier posted a video on social media apparently from Dubai airport, amid suggestions that he could have been bound for Paris.
He has remained silent while rumours swirl that he will join the French club, who are reportedly ready to pay the €222 million (HK$2 billion) buyout clause in his contract at the Nou Camp.
Neymar, who was in Shanghai on Monday fulfilling a sponsor’s engagement, had also posted a photo on Instagram with the caption in Portuguese: “Lunch at half-way”.
In another video posted from an aeroplane, Neymar joked around with an image messaging app that superimposed a Spanish flag and a small plane on his tee-shirt – suggesting he was indeed headed home to Barcelona.
A post shared by Nj neymarjr (@neymarjr) on Aug 1, 2017 at 1:51am PDT
Earlier reports claimed that he was headed from China to Doha to meet PSG’s Qatari owners and pass a medical before a world-record transfer.
But his being on an Emirates plane ruled out Doha as a possible destination given the diplomatic crisis between Qatar and its Gulf neighbours.
And Neymar finally landed in Barcelona just before 9:00pm local time, taking a backdoor exit to avoid the dozens of journalists and a few supporters – some wearing PSG shirts – who had been awaiting his arrival.
A video filmed by a passenger and broadcast on Catalan television channel TV3 shows Neymar in an area reserved for flight crew. He is wearing headphones and avoids responding to fans asking if he is staying with Barcelona.
FCB e staff de Neymar confirmam que o jogador volta hoje para Barcelona. Treina amanhã e segue a vida normalmente até tudo se definir.
— Marcelo Bechler (@marcelobechler) August 1, 2017
“[Barcelona] and Neymar’s entourage confirm that the player returns to Barcelona today. He will train tomorrow and continue with life as normal until everything is sorted out,” tweeted Marcelo Bechler, the Brazilian journalist who first broke news of an “agreement” between the player and PSG on July 18.
Barcelona, who lost 3-2 to Real Madrid in Miami on Saturday during the last match of a US tour, are due to train on Wednesday morning.
“Neymar and the rest of the squad are due at training,” a club source said.
Barcelona’s next match is on Monday in the annual Joan Gamper trophy, in which they will host Chapecoense, the Brazilian club whose team was decimated in an air disaster last November.
Ernesto Valverde’s side play their first official match on August 13 against Madrid in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup.
Neymar, though, has a nasty surprise awaiting him upon his return as Barcelona have blocked payment of a €26 million bonus he is due, a source at the club said.
“These 26 million euros have been placed with a notary pending to see if the player continues,” the source said.
The renewal bonus was agreed on a year ago when Neymar extended his contract with Barcelona until 2021, and was due to be paid to the player after he completed a year.
But the club has decided to put it on hold while waiting to see how his transfer situation evolves.
The contract Neymar signed also increased an early termination clause from €200-222 million, a sum which PSG are reportedly willing to pay.