MADRID: Neymar’s ‘transfer of the century’ from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain took another twist on Thursday as Spain’s football league refused to accept a 222 million euro ($260 million) cheque to pay his buyout clause.
Representatives of the 25-year-old Brazilian were turned away from the Madrid headquarters of La Liga, whose president Javier Tebas has accused the French club of breaching transfer rules.
“We can confirm that the legal representatives of the player attended La Liga to pay the clause and this has been rejected,” a La Liga spokesperson told AFP.
The move may delay Neymar’s transfer but is unlikely to derail it as La Liga has no legal grounds to block the deal, according to experts.
“They had an indemnity clause agreed….and the rules are that if you have a clause agreed, you have to abide by it,” Marcos Galera, a lawyer and founding member of Spanish sports law specialists Agaz, told AFP.
However, the player, initially expected in Paris later Thursday, is now due to arrive a day later, according to airport sources in the French capital.
The French league called on their Spanish counterparts “to stick to FIFA’s rules and its responsibilities” to allow the world record breaking transfer to proceed.
The transfer dominated front pages across the world with many commentators aghast at the rampant inflation in football transfer fees.
Neymar’s new mark is more than double the previous record set by Manchester United’s capture of Paul Pogba from Juventus last year for 105 million euros.
However, in the French capital there is huge excitement at PSG’s Qatari-backed project landing a star name to finally make them feared among European football’s elite.
“Neymar to PSG — the transfer of the century”, splashed Le Parisien’s front page with the first five pages devoted to his impending arrival.
“Neymar could be wearing the Parisian shirt from this week,” added Le Parisien with a possible presentation to take place at PSG’s Ligue 1 opener at home to Amiens on Saturday.
French President Emmanuel Macron added to the anticipation, saying the move was “good news.”
The mood is understandably more sombre in Barcelona where attention has turned to who the Catalans can sign to replace Neymar in the month before the transfer window closes.
Liverpool’s Brazilian international Philippe Coutinho and Borussia Dortmund’s Ousmane Dembele have both been linked.
There is also scepticism at the role played by PSG’s owners Oryx Qatar Sports Investments (QSI) at a time of political crisis for the energy-rich state which has been boycotted by its Gulf neighbours in recent months and will play host to the World Cup in 2022.
Spanish newspaper El Mundo described the move as a “state signing.”
Leading coaches such as Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger and Manchester United’s Jose Mourinho lamented that the move could cause even greater inflation in transfer fees and player wages.
“It also looks like the inflation is accelerating,” said Wenger, whose 21 years at Arsenal have been characterised by prudent spending.
“It’s beyond calculation and beyond rationality.”
PSG’s finances will come under heavy scrutiny in the years to come with both La Liga and Barcelona threatening to report the French giants to UEFA for breaches of financial fair play (FFP) regulations.
Clubs can be sanctioned by European football’s governing body for making a loss of more than 30 million euros over a three-year period.
However, UEFA insisted the move will not automatically trigger a failure to comply with FFP regulations.
“The transfer of Neymar to PSG will have an effect on the club’s finances over several years but the impact of such an operation cannot be judged in advance, notably as PSG could well sell several players for a significant amount,” UEFA said in a statement to AFP.
Whilst La Liga dig their heels in, Barca’s players have continued to say their goodbyes with Luis Suarez joining Lionel Messi in wishing his “little bro” well.
“My friend I wish you the best in everything that comes!!!” Suarez posted on Instagram alongside a picture of the two hugging.
“Also thank you for your support, for everything that I learned with you and for the unique moments that we spent together!!!! Keep like this and never change love you little bro.”