United made $296m bid for Neymar

LONDON • Manchester United made a staggering £145.6 million (S$296 million) bid to take Neymar, the Barcelona striker, to Old Trafford. The audacious request was revealed by Neymar's father.

During a court case in Spain this week, Neymar Santos referred to the transfer bid, but did not name the club who were willing to meet the buyout clause in his son's Barcelona contract.

But now Neymar Sr has told a Spanish radio station that it was United who were ready to pay the huge sum.

"Manchester United is the side that offered €190 million (S$296 million) for Neymar," the Brazil forward's father told Cope.

"He has still two years left on his contract, but you can all be calm as my son is happy here."

He had been in court as part of a case brought by a Brazilian third-party investment fund against himself, Neymar, Santos, his former club, and Barcelona over the exact fee paid for his son's move to the Nou Camp in 2013.

The offer from United came last summer and capturing the player rated among the best in the world behind only Lionel Messi, his Barcelona team-mate, and Cristiano Ronaldo, of Real Madrid, could have gone some way to transforming the fortunes of Louis van Gaal's United side.

During last month's transfer window, the United board were unable to sign their preferred targets - they wanted a left-back and a right-sided midfielder - because of the uncertainty surrounding the future of the Dutch manager.

However, United are still keen to make a "Galactico" signing.

Three months ago, Juan Laporta, the former Barcelona president, predicted that Neymar could be sold to United to balance the books for the Champions League holders.

United said that they were not prepared to comment on reports of the bid that would have easily eclipsed the world-record £85 million paid by Real Madrid to take Gareth Bale from Tottenham Hotspur in 2013.

Neymar's departure would not have gone down well in Catalonia.

However, while Barcelona have made it plain that they would not countenance selling Messi at any price, they have been less convincing when attempting to dismiss reports that Neymar could be prised away.

Neymar received a reprieve on Thursday, when a Brazilian judge threw out a tax evasion case against him because Brazil's inland revenue has yet to finish its own deliberations in the case.

The player, his father and two former presidents of Barcelona were accused of tax irregularities and providing false documentation in cases that a prosecutor said involved contractual frauds surrounding Neymar's image rights.

But Judge Mateus Castelo Branco Firmino da Silva would not consider the case because the inland revenue had still to rule.

THE TIMES, LONDON, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 06, 2016, with the headline 'United made $296m bid for Neymar'. Print Edition | Subscribe