MIAMI • Barcelona stars Andres Iniesta and Luis Suarez said that they have begged team-mate Neymar to resist the temptation of moving to Paris Saint-Germain after his training-ground altercation with new signing Nelsen Semedo.
The French giants are supposedly ready to launch a record-breaking €222 million (S$354 million) move for the 25-year-old, sparking exit fears as the Spanish football club prepared for an "El Clasico" International Champions Cup friendly with Real Madrid this morning (Singapore time) in Miami.
The unsettled Brazilian forward stormed off the practice pitch at Miami's Barry University training complex in disgust on Thursday, and has yet to commit his future to Barcelona ahead of the transfer deadline on Aug 31.
"It's true, something did happen, but that's sometimes what happens in training," midfielder Iniesta said.
"All the talk about Neymar right now, everything is magnified. Things like these can happen. It's a personal decision for him, but of course we want him to stay."
Suarez has formed a deadly partnership with Neymar and echoed Iniesta's calls for the interest from PSG to be dismissed once and for all.
"As soon as he clarifies the situation it's better for us and him. He will have his say when he is ready and, as a team-mate, I will support him," Suarez said.
"Our relationship won't change. We want him to stay."
WE WANT HIM TO STAY
Things like these can happen. It's a personal decision for him, but of course we want him to stay.
ANDRES INIESTA, Neymar's team-mate at Barcelona.
Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde swerved the media on the eve of the match with Real, but Iniesta sang Neymar's praises.
"For me, he's one of the best players in the world. He brings so much to the team and hopefully he will stay for many years," Iniesta said.
Neymar made an appearance at a Nike shop in Miami on Friday afternoon to celebrate the release of his new boots. But he refused to talk about the speculation and just posed for photographs with fans.
He is still lined up to travel to China on business for the LaLiga giants after the clash with Real and will not travel back to Spain with Barcelona.
Apart from Neymar, Monaco's Kylian Mbappe could also be a record signing and Real captain Sergio Ramos has said that the French teenage striker will become a welcome addition for the reigning Champions League and LaLiga champions.
The 18-year-old forward is wanted by Real coach Zinedine Zidane, with the club poised to make him one of the most expensive players of all time in a move that could cost around €180 million.
"It's not a decision for me but Mbappe is a great prospect. There are not young players around like him," said Ramos.
Real's Cristiano Ronaldo will not be in action against Barcelona as the Portuguese star has been in Asia completing commercial obligations.He is expected in court tomorrow in Madrid to testify in a tax-evasion case.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN