Neymar signs five-year contract at Barcelona before greeting packed Camp Nou
Spanish club say transfer cost of $75 million was raised after late interest from Real Madrid
Barca had initially intended to sign the forward in 2014
Brazilian starlet Neymar completed his transfer to Barcelona on Monday and swiftly declared that his aim was to help Lionel Messi continue to be the best footballer on the planet.
“Barca are more than a club and a great team and I want to help Messi to continue to be the greatest player in the world,” he was quoted as saying by Barcelona’s official website.
The words may be seen as an attempt to dampen speculation as to how the 21-year-old signing from Brazilian side Santos will fare alongside the four-time World Footballer of the Year.
Barcelona legend Johann Cruyff recently stoked the debate when stressing a need to learn from the past as he discussed Neymar’s arrival, saying he would not put “two captains on the same ship.”
Despite his widespread reputation as one of the greatest players in footballing history, Messi has not been averse to criticism from some teammates in years gone by.
In his 2011 biography, Zlatan Ibrahimovic complained that the end of his Barcelona career began when Messi told then coach Pep Guardiola that he wanted to play centrally, rather than on the wing, so forcing the Swede to play out of position.
The striker was an expensive flop after joining in 2009 and the present Barcelona hierarchy will hope that the $75 million spent on Neymar will work out far better than the similar amount splashed on Ibrahimovic, who lasted just a year at the club.
“There are big question marks as to how Neymar will fit into the team as there is already one god, or demigod, at Barcelona in Lionel Messi,” Spanish football expert Jimmy Burns told CNN.
“There is potential tension. Cruyff has said in recent days that you cannot have two captains but other people are being more generous.
“I think he is going to introduce a necessary element of dynamism to a Barca that showed signs of flagging in the season just past, and who were utterly destroyed by Bayern Munich in the Champions League semifinals.”
Beaten 7-0 over two legs in the semifinals of this year’s competition by the eventual winners, Barcelona can at least reflect on a more than satisfactory league campaign.
They reclaimed the title off last year’s champions Real Madrid in convincing fashion, winning La Liga by a record 15 points over their bitter rivals.
Barca also registered 32 victories and reached 100 points for the first time in a league campaign following Saturday’s 4-1 defeat of Malaga.
“I’m very happy to be a Barca player. I’m very excited, I’ve realized a dream. Thank you so much,” said Neymar after walking out into Barcelona’s stadium accompanied by a group of children and the club’s hymn.
“It is an honor to play alongside the best player in the world in Messi. It should be easier to play alongside him because he is the best,” he added later.
He was greeted by over 56,000 fans, with the Barcelona website commenting that “very few players (had) garnered this much attention from the Camp Nou faithful.”
The Brazil international, who flew overnight from Rio de Janeiro after playing in Sunday’s 2-2 draw with England, put pen to paper on his contract on Monday after passing a medical.
Neymar – whose full name is Neymar da Silva Junio – signed a deal that is set to keep him at the club until 2018.
Any suitors potentially interested in luring the Brazilian away will have to stump up a staggering transfer fee after Barcelona announced that his buyout clause is $248 million.
Barcelona vice president Josep Maria Bartomeu revealed on Monday that Barca had planned to bring in Neymar next year only to have to move the deal forward in light of competition for his signature from Real Madrid and another unnamed club.
“The operation has been made more expensive due to the interest of other clubs that interfered in the signing of Neymar,” he said.
“It was foreseen that Neymar would arrive in 2014. To bring the move forward, we have had to pay $22 million more.”
In total, the deal cost Barcelona $75 million, with the club having already made a down payment of $13 million last year.
Neymar himself said he had always targeted a move to Barcelona despite the attempts made by their great rivals Real.
“Real Madrid is a great club and I respect them, but I chose Barca because my heart was with Barca and I am here today,” he explained.
“My family and I have never been moved by money, for me happiness is very important and I am happy at Barca.”
The Spanish titleholders and four-time European champions announced the signing of the forward on May 26.