Skip to main content

Neymar to join Messi at Barcelona

May 26, 2013 -- Updated 2054 GMT (0454 HKT)
Lionel Messi, left, and Neymar will be teammates next season at Barcelona.
Lionel Messi, left, and Neymar will be teammates next season at Barcelona.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Brazilian striker Neymar will join Barcelona for the next five seasons
  • Neymar was being chased by several European clubs, including Chelsea
  • Neymar was recently named the world's most marketable athlete for a second time

(CNN) -- Not content with having the world's best player, Lionel Messi, on their books, Barcelona have moved to sign Pele's "modern successor" -- Neymar.

A day after Bayern Munich beat Borussia Dortmund 2-1 in the Champions League final at Wembley to be crowned Kings of Europe, it was announced that the much coveted Brazilian striker would join Barcelona for five years. The transfer fee wasn't disclosed, but one Brazilian newspaper said the buyout clause surpassed $80 million.

The move, on paper, should boost a Barcelona side that features an ageing Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Carles Puyol, three club stalwarts.

Midfielder Cesc Fabregas and forward Alexis Sanchez have struggled, many would say, since joining from Arsenal and Udinese, respectively.

Barcelona might have won the Spanish league title, but it was crushed by Bayern Munich in the Champions League semifinals. The defeat stung.

Some labeled Barcelona a one-man team after losing 7-0 on aggregate, referring to four-time world player of the year Messi.

Read: Bayern crushes Barca

Messi was inhibited by a hamstring injury in the first leg and didn't play at all in the second. Without him, Barcelona offered little resistance.

Pele, considered one of the greatest football players of all time, said last year that Neymar -- his fellow Brazilian -- was even better than Messi, an Argentinean.

CNN FC: Beckham retires
Alex Ferguson's recipe for success
Thiago Silva targets PSG dominance

Barcelona lavished praise on Neymar, too.

"The player is known for his exquisite technical skills, which makes this free-scoring striker a nightmare for any defense," Barcelona said on its Web site. "His style is beautiful to watch and he has received recognition and praise from the legendary Pele himself, of whom many believe he is the modern successor."

Neymar, the current South American player of the year, revitalized Santos, Pele's former club, scoring 138 goals in only 229 matches. He helped Santos win the 2011 Copa Libertadores and the 2010 Brazilian Cup.

With Neymar expected to move on when his contract was due to expire next year, a transfer to Europe was widely anticipated.

He had been previously linked with Barcelona, as well as Chelsea and Real Madrid, among other clubs. Last week Santos said it had accepted offers from two teams.

At 21, he is an established international with Brazil and will be counted on to lead the nation in next year's World Cup on home soil, although he has also drawn criticism from Pele for some of his outings. Neymar struggled in the 2012 Olympic final against Mexico.

Fellow Brazilian international Thiago Silva defended him.

"Our biggest star nowadays is Neymar and I think people have to have a little bit more respect with the professional that is Ney," he told CNN.

"He's a great guy with a very pure and good heart and people sometimes make things up and start talking rubbish where there's nothing to talk about.

"I would like to ask for people to have a bit more patience with him because he's our biggest star at the moment."

Neymar's last game for Santos comes Sunday against Flamengo as the Brazilian season's opening weekend began.

"My feelings for the club and the fans will never change," Neymar said. "I made it sure that I play (the last match) so I can have the opportunity to once again enter the field wearing the team's jersey and to hear the (fans) chant my name.

Friedel: 'Bale can be world's best'
Ferrer: Spain can win 2014 World Cup

"Only a club like Santos FC could give me everything I have experienced on and off the field. I thank the wonderful fans who supported me even in the most difficult moments. Titles, goals, dribbling, celebrations and songs that fans created for me will be forever in my heart."

Neymar wasn't only a success on the pitch in Brazil.

He earns a reported $20 million a year in salary and endorsements, and he was recently named SportsPro's most marketable athlete for a second consecutive time.

Santos said it tried to convince Neymar to stay.

"Every effort was made to keep him in Brazil as long as possible, even offering to renew the current contract, which ends in July 2014," Santos said in a statement.

"At this time, however, it was not possible to compete with the terms offered from abroad, which affected the decision of the player to review his professional life."

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
October 28, 2014 -- Updated 1253 GMT (2053 HKT)
How Real Madrid's new stadium will look
They splash the cash on the world's best players, now Real Madrid are giving the Bernabeu the same treatment with a bling makeover.
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 1309 GMT (2109 HKT)
Football world mourns South African captain Senzo Meyiwa who was shot and killed during a botched robbery in a township near Johannesburg.
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1348 GMT (2148 HKT)
A man as a Roman centurion and who earn his living by posing with tourists gestures in front of the Colosseum during a protest where some of his colleagues climbed on the monument on April 12, 2012 in Rome. The costumed centurions are asking for the right to work there after they were banned following a decision by local authorities.
From the ancient ruins of Rome, a new empire rises. But the eyes of the city's newest gladiator light up at thoughts of the Colosseum.
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1622 GMT (0022 HKT)
Once part of Germany's largest Jewish sports club, now he's the first ISIS suspect to stand trial in a country left shocked by his alleged radicalization.
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 1411 GMT (2211 HKT)
One goal in eight matches for new club Liverpool, and dumped by the Italian national team -- Mario Balotelli has yet to shine on his English return.
October 18, 2014 -- Updated 1819 GMT (0219 HKT)
Ched Evans smiles during the Wales training session ahead of their UEFA EURO 2012 qualifier against England on March 25, 2011 in Cardiff, Wales.
Should a convicted rapist, who has served their time in prison, be allowed to resume their old job? What if that job was as a high-profile football player?
October 16, 2014 -- Updated 1247 GMT (2047 HKT)
After 10 years of golden glory, it's easy to see how Lionel Messi has taken his place among the football gods.
October 16, 2014 -- Updated 1034 GMT (1834 HKT)
A football fan wipes a tear after Inter Milan's Argentinian defender Javier Zanetti has greeted fans following the announcement of his retirement before the start of the Italian seria A football match Inter Milan vs Lazio, on May 10, 2014, in San Siro Stadium In Milan
When will the tears stop? A leading Italian football club is pursuing a new direction -- under the guidance of its new Indonesian owner.
October 13, 2014 -- Updated 2241 GMT (0641 HKT)
Norwegian 15-year-old Martin Odegaard is the youngest player ever to feature in a European Championships qualifying match.
October 10, 2014 -- Updated 1310 GMT (2110 HKT)
After revolutionizing cricket with its glitzy Twenty20 league, India has now thrown large sums of money at a new football venture.
October 2, 2014 -- Updated 1453 GMT (2253 HKT)
Get ruthless. That is Rio Ferdinand's message to soccer's authorities in the fight to tackle the scourge of racism.
September 10, 2014 -- Updated 1328 GMT (2128 HKT)
A picture taken on May 16, 2014 shows 15-year-old Norwegian footballer Martin Oedegaard of club Stroemsgodset IF cheering during a match in Drammen, Norway. Oedegaard is set to become Norways youngest player ever in the national football team.
He's just 15 and the world is seemingly already at his feet. Norway's Martin Odegaard is being sought by Europe's top clubs.
ADVERTISEMENT