Messi bids gracious farewell, but Barca fans not so for­giv­ing

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS - AFP

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.

Mixed emo­tions

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

MIKE SEGAR / REUTERS

Ney­mar and Lionel Messi dur­ing train­ing ahead of the In­ter­na­tional Cham­pi­ons Cup at Red Bull Arena, Har­ri­son, New Jer­sey, on July 21.

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