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Neymar ends saga with Barca move

FOX Soccer News: Neymar set to join Spanish giants Barcelona.
FOX Soccer News: Neymar set to join Spanish giants Barcelona.
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Dermot Corrigan

Dermot Corrigan is a freelance Irish sportswriter who lives in Madrid and writes about soccer for several publications, including FOXSoccer.com, Sport 360°, When Saturday Comes and Iberosphere. Contact him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan.

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MADRID, SPAIN

RISING STAR

Neymar may be young, but he already has many memorable moments.

Many in Barcelona and Madrid had hoped to be spending this weekend battling each other for the Champions League trophy. But instead - as German sides Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund readied for battle at Wembley - the two Spanish giants were locked in combat for the signature of Brazilian starlet Neymar.

The Catalan side has triumphed at last with Neymar's decision to join Barcelona.

21-year-old Santos attacker Neymar - long seen as the next potential global soccer superstar - has been tracked by both Madrid and Barcelona for over two years now. Madrid thought they had signed him in 2011, having agreed a €60m deal with his club, but the player himself then reportedly changed his mind and signed a new contract to remain at home until June 2014.

In soccer, contracts are usually just a bargaining point to start from. So Barca’s representatives in South America got to work, helped by club president Sandro Rosell having built contacts in the region when he worked there for Nike in the late 1990s. This - reportedly - lead to Barca paying a €10 million ‘deposit’ to Neymar's representatives and agreeing salary terms of €7 million per year.

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A deal still remained to be done between the clubs however, with negotiations now extra complicated as Santos had brought in help from ‘third parties’ to help pay his wages. While the exact details remain a closely guarded secret - investors including DIS, Teisa, Sonda and the player’s own father collectively ‘owned’ about half his rights.

The fear for Santos - and the various other ‘stakeholders’ involved in the deal, was that Neymar could let his contract run down until 2014, and then be free to join the club of his choosing for free. Madrid sensed an opportunity, and re-entered the race in early May, looking to hi-jack Barca’s deal by paying the full €65 million release clause in his current contract. Well sourced ‘speculation’ in Brazil also suggested other parties including Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City could all join an auction which would have proved very profitable for his current orders.

Neymar himself has held firm to his intention of joining Barcelona, having made up his mind after December 2011’s FIFA Club World Cup final in Japan, where he got to see up close the brilliance of Leo Messi, Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta and company as Barca beat his Santos 4-0. “Today we learned how to play football,” Neymar said that day. “They are the best in the world.”

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This week, while the complicated talks continued in Brazil, Barca’s own players were working hard to persuade Neymar that he would be welcomed to the Camp Nou with open arms. Messi himself said on Tuesday said while on a promotional trip to Qatar that he really hoped to play alongside his fellow South American next season. “For us he would be a marvellous addition,” Messi said. “He is a great player.”

Blaugrana right-back Dani Alves, a colleague of Neymar’s with the Brazil national side, said on Wednesday that pundits’ fears that the two talented attackers might not blend together in the same XI were incorrect. “When two players are good, they understand each other better,” Alves said. “If [Neymar] comes it will be a relief because it would help Messi a lot.”

Madrid club figures were remaining officially silent on the topic, as the club dealt with the departure of Jose Mourinho and signing of likely new coach Carlo Ancelotti. But again, well placed sources in the Spanish media had it that Madrid’s ‘representatives’ had not given up the fight yet - and were prepared to go to €100 million, even repaying the ‘deposit’ Barca had already put down.

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Back in South America the talks finally seemed to reach a conclusion on Friday night, with Santos executive Odilio Rodrigues telling the local media that both Madrid and Barcelona had had offers accepted by the club - and it was up to Neymar to decide. His agent Wagner Ribeiro then tweeted an update long after midnight.

"3:47 in the morning in Guarujá, with Neymar and his father,” Ribeiro said. “Neymar is going to Spain to play football and to be happy. If I had a son I would like him to play for Madrid, but Neymar is not my son, just my client, and we must look at what is best for him.”

The Catalans got their man, for the next five years, starting next season. The long-running transfer saga appeared to be finally over.

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