Messi bids gracious farewell, but Barca fans not so forgiving
BARCELONA — Lionel Messi bid farewell to Neymar on Instagram on Wednesday after the Brazilian striker told him and other Barcelona teammates he was leaving, saying it was a “huge pleasure” to have played with the Brazilian.
The Catalan club confirmed that Neymar wanted to leave after weeks of intense speculation as the 25-year-old forward closed a $264 million transfer to Paris Saint-Germain on Thursday.
“It was a huge pleasure having shared all those years with you, my friend @neymarjr,” Messi wrote on Instagram, next to a montage of pictures of both stars high-fiving, embracing and laughing.
“I wish you lots of luck in this new stage in your life. See you soon tkm,” he added. (‘Tkm’ stands for te quiero mucho, or ‘I love you loads’).
“Thanks brother. I will miss you man,” Neymar replied on Instagram.
Speculation over Neymar’s future dominated the first few weeks of new Barca boss Ernesto Valverde’s reign.
Some understood, others were enraged, but most supporters of Barcelona reacted with sadness that Neymar was leaving.
“It’s a blow,” said Javier Barranco, a 19-year-old psychology student in Barcelona.
“It hurts because I thought he was going to grow here like (Lionel) Messi, that he was going to spend his entire career here and that he would be a Barca great for life.
“The fact money moved him more than anything else bothers me.”
When Neymar arrived at Barcelona in the summer of 2013, fans hoped he would be the natural successor to Messi when the performance of the Argentinian five-time world player of the year, now 30, starts to decline.
His blazing speed and ball control soon seduced supporters at Camp Nou stadium, where shirts with his No 11 and ‘Neymar Jr’ name bars were still on sale on Wednesday morning.
But by the afternoon, workers took down a promotional poster of the Barcelona players to replace it with an identical one ... without the image of Neymar.
“They’re professional and it’s good that they look for the best for themselves and their family. We’re talking about a lot of money,” said Ramon Urgell, a 63-year-old economist.
“Then there are emotions, and I would like him to stay.”
Paris Saint-Germain will reportedly triple Neymar’s after-tax salary to $35.5 million next season.
Another motivation for the move could be a desire to move out of Messi’s shadow.
Still, not all supporters showed the same level of understanding.
For Jesus Reinal, a bus driver, Neymar is “another turncoat, like Figo,” the Portuguese player who abandoned Barcelona in 2000 to go to its archrival Real Madrid, for a then record $68 million.
But after weeks of speculation and uncertainty, many are just glad the drama has finally come to a close.
“The club must be celebrating following this summer saga, which is embarrassing and pathetic,” said Sara Huertas, a Peruvian who supports Barcelona.
“Is it really $264 million? Well that’s money in the coffers. I hope they decide to spend it on bringing in some players who are worth that kind of money.”
The fact money moved him more than anything else bothers me.” Javier Barranco, Barcelona supporter
Neymar and Lionel Messi during training ahead of the International Champions Cup at Red Bull Arena, Harrison, New Jersey, on July 21.