PARIS • Money was never the motivating factor for Neymar's record €222 million (S$355 million) transfer from Barcelona, the world's most expensive footballer said on his arrival at Paris Saint-Germain yesterday.
Before taking to the pitch at the Parc des Princes stadium to show off his skills and new PSG shirt, the Brazilian forward told reporters that he moved to France because he "wanted a bigger challenge".
"My heart made this decision and I followed my heart," said the player who will reportedly be paid €45 million a year. "Money was never my motivation... I want to be happy, and I want my family to be happy. I'm really sad to hear that people think this way.
"If it was just about money, I could have gone somewhere else."
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The jaw-dropping deal is the first time that a world-record transfer fee has been doubled in one swoop.
The previous record was midfielder Paul Pogba's move last year from Juventus to Manchester United for €105 million.
Sports business experts said the transfer - which could lead to a series of big-money deals across Europe - makes little business sense for PSG and may have more to do with its Qatari owners' desire to exert "soft power" at a time when the wealthy Gulf Arab state is being isolated by its neighbours.
WORTH HIS WEIGHT IN GOLD
Being the most expensive player in the world is not a burden. I weigh 69kg. I don't have a burden on me.
NEYMAR, PSG's latest signing, on not being affected by his price tag.
Club president Nasser Al-Khelaifi, who introduced the player as "an idol for the whole world", said the value of the club had risen by half a billion dollars since Neymar's signing.
He was not concerned about possibly falling foul of Uefa's Financial Fair Play regulations, which limit the amount a club can spend in excess of their income, saying: "We are working very transparently with Uefa."
However, there was criticism of the sums involved. FIFPro, the worldwide union of professional footballers, said the deal illustrated what was wrong with the sport.
"Football is ever more the domain of a select group of rich, mostly European-based clubs," FIFPro general secretary Theo van Seggelen said. "Football's enormous wealth could be redistributed more efficiently and fairly to help protect competitive balance. The transfer rules governed by Fifa are anti-competitive, unjustified and illegal."
Despite the furore outside, Neymar proved an instant hit at PSG's stadium shop which sold out of shirts with his No. 10 on the back costing between €100 and €150 each.
"Being the most expensive player in the world is not a burden," Neymar said. "I weigh 69 kg. I don't have a burden on me."
The Brazilian forward denied that he had tired of playing second-fiddle to Lionel Messi at Barcelona.
"It's not that I wanted to be the big star at Barcelona," he said.
"That's not what I'm looking for here. I'm looking for a new challenge, new trophies, and this is what motivates me."
PSG fans may not have to wait long to see their new superstar in action.
"I can play tomorrow (against Amiens). Why not? I'll speak to the staff, but I really want to play," Neymar said. "I haven't discussed where I will play. I will play where the coach wants me to."
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE