LONDON • Paris Saint-Germain are preparing to hold talks over a world-record €222 million (S$351.3 million) deal to buy Neymar from Barcelona.
Although Barca are insisting the forward will stay, PSG are becoming more optimistic that they may be able to sign him.
The French champions are not getting carried away, though, having thought they had secured a deal for Neymar last summer only for the Brazil striker to sign an improved contract to remain at the Camp Nou.
Nevertheless, they intend to hold discussions with his father and believe an agreement may be possible. They can easily meet the €222 million release clause and the huge salary Neymar would demand.
PSG chairman Nasser al-Khelaifi has reopened the door to the transfer and Antero Henrique, the sporting director, is in line to talk to Neymar's father, who has stayed in touch with the club despite last summer's events. PSG felt used then and vowed not to be duped again. There had also been flirtations the previous summer.
Yet Neymar represents everything PSG need - a top signing who would propel them into a new dimension on and off the pitch. His marketing value combined with his talent would catapult them onto the global stage and take them closer to their aim of winning the Champions League.
The 25-year-old knows he can expect to continue playing second fiddle to Lionel Messi at Barcelona as the Argentinian renewed his contract till 2021.
PSG feel they are given hope by Neymar's desire to be the main attraction and his knowledge that he will struggle to win personal accolades in the same team as Messi.
"If we want to be rivals to Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Real Madrid and win the Champions League then PSG need to have one of the top five players in the world. We will try and buy one of them this summer," PSG coach Unai Emery told French newspaper L'Equipe.
Barcelona vice-president Jordi Mestre has said he is "200 per cent" certain Neymar will stay, while the club's former president Joan Gaspart believes PSG's pursuit of Neymar is a "retaliation" to Barcelona showing interest in PSG's Marco Verratti.
"Neymar won't leave Barca," Gaspart told Spain's RAC1. "What's happening is that PSG are retaliating because they're annoyed by a move to sign their player. They're trying to make a mess of Neymar's situation. I hope that Neymar clears up that he's not going soon and says that he's delighted to be at Barcelona and that the rumours have no foundations."