Neymar, Brazil’s most marketable soccer player, is on the verge of leaving for Europe after his team Santos last night accepted two offers for the striker.
Santos had been in talks with officials from Spanish champion Barcelona, which wants the 21-year-old to move to Europe and join world player of the year Lionel Messi in its attack next season. Reports in local media said Santos had also agreed a fee with Real Madrid.
“In the face of the offers and the player’s contract, the management committee of the club decided to sell the player,” Santos said on its website.
Earlier in the day the 21-year-old’s manager, Eduardo Musa, said in a telephone interview that Neymar would prefer to see out his contract with Santos, play the World Cup on home soil and then leave for Europe, “but if some proposal is good for him he can change his mind.”
Neymar, who has 138 goals in 229 games for Santos, has been coveted by soccer’s biggest clubs since making Santos’s first team while still a teenager. With a mixture of speed and skill, he’s become a starter for the Brazilian national team.
In 2011, a goal he scored in a league game against Flamengo was voted the best goal in professional soccer by global governing body FIFA. That same year he helped Santos land South America’s top club competition, the Libertadores Cup, for the first time since 1963.
Neymar’s contract runs through 2014 and after that he’ll be able to leave the club without a transfer fee. Musa said Neymar isn’t interested in extending his contract with Santos, a club that Pele starred for during much of his career.
“At a meeting with the representatives of Santos FC’s management committee, the forward Neymar Jr was informed about the proposals received by the club and will analyze them in the coming days before making a definitive decision,” Santos said in a later statement.
Santos Vice President Odilio Rodrigues said this week that the coastal club rejected a second bid from Barcelona. Folha de S.Paulo reported on May 22 that after Barcelona’s initial offer of 18 million euros ($23 million) was rejected, the Spanish team came back with an offer that also included two exhibition games. The newspaper said that Neymar’s contract has a 65 million euro ($84 million) buyout clause.
Folha said today Santos accepted Barcelona’s offer after it upped its bid to 74 million reais ($36 million)
Musa said Neymar has been ignoring all the publicity surrounding the talks with Barcelona and is focused on his team’s first game of the Brazilian season against Flamengo in two days. Santos has given up home-field advantage to stage the game in Brasilia, which is using the match to inaugurate its World Cup stadium.
Neymar is one of Brazil’s most recognizable celebrities, with sponsorship deals with multinationals including Nike Inc., Volkswagen AG and Unilever NV. Billionaire Eike Batista recruited Neymar for his venture with IMG Worldwide Inc. that will steer his career in Brazil and beyond. France Football magazine said he’s the fifth-highest earning soccer player with total income of 20 million euros per year
Complicating a possible transfer is the involvement of two funds that have invested in the transfer rights. While Santos will get 55 percent of any fee, the remainder will go to supermarket chain owner Delcir Sonda, whose company DIS in 2009 paid 5.5 million reais ($2.7 million) for a 40 percent stake in Neymar’s transfer rights, and a company called Terceira Estrela Investimentos S.A, which paid 3.5 million reais for a 5 percent stake in 2011.
Neymar’s fame has helped Santos’s revenue soar.
Since his debut in 2009, sales at Santos have grown to 199.8 million reais from 70.4 million reais, according to data compiled by Amir Somoggi, a management consultant to Santos and other top Brazilian clubs. Sponsorship receipts grew to 50.3 million reais in 2012 from 17.8 million reais in 2009 and ticket revenue almost doubled to 17.4 million reais during the same time, according to his figures.