Football: Barcelona fans torn over Neymar departure

Neymar is expected to arrive in Paris on August 3 to finalise his world record 222 million euro move from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain.
Neymar is expected to arrive in Paris on August 3 to finalise his world record 222 million euro move from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain.PHOTO: AFP

Barcelona (AFP) - Some understood, others were enraged, but most supporters of Barcelona reacted with sadness on Wednesday to news that star striker Neymar was leaving, in all likelihood to Paris Saint-Germain.

The Catalan club announced that the 25-year-old wanted to leave, insisting however that the Brazilian's €222 million (S$357.7 million) buyout clause must be paid - an amount that would smash all transfer records.

"It's a blow," said Javier Barranco, a 19-year-old psychology student in Barcelona.

"It hurts because I thought he was going to grow here like (Lionel) Messi, that he was going to spend his entire career here and that he would be a Barca great for life.

"The fact that money moved him more than anything else bothers me."

When Neymar arrived at Barcelona in the summer of 2013, fans hoped he would be the natural successor to Messi when the performance of the Argentinian five-time world player of the year, now 30, declined.

His dribbles and fast game soon seduced supporters at the Camp Nou stadium, where his shirt with the No. 11 and name "Neymar Jr" were still on sale on Wednesday morning.

But by the afternoon, workers took down a promotional poster of the Barcelona players to replace it with an identical one... without the image of Neymar.

"They're professional and it's good that they look for the best for themselves and their family. We're talking about a lot of money," said Ramon Urgell, a 63-year-old economist.

"Then there are emotions, and I would like him to stay."

Paris Saint-Germain will reportedly triple Neymar's salary to €30 million net a season.

But another justification for him to jump ship could be a desire to move out of Messi's shadow.

Still, not all supporters showed the same level of understanding.

For Jesus Reinal, a bus driver, Neymar is "another turncoat, like Figo," the Portuguese midfielder who abandoned Barcelona in 2000 to go to its arch-rival Real Madrid, for a then record €61 million.

But after weeks of speculation and uncertainty, many are just glad that the drama has finally come to a close.

"The club must be celebrating following this summer saga, which is embarrassing and pathetic," said Sara Huertas, a Peruvian who supports Barcelona.

"Is it really €222 million? Well that's money in the coffers, may they decide on and bring someone who's worth it."