STILL MORE THAN A CLUB?

Barcelona left red-faced af­ter Ney­mar tells team­mates ‘he is leav­ing’

New Straits Times - - Sport -

BARCELONA pride them­selves on be­ing ‘more than a club’. It’s writ­ten into the seats of their sta­dium.

But this sum­mer the Ney­mar cir­cus has shone an un­flat­ter­ing light on them and re­vealed a once proud institution as weak, di­rec­tion­less and sud­denly very un­con­vinc­ing on the world stage.

No mat­ter how things fin­ish up with Ney­mar, and noth­ing can be ruled out in this pan­tomime played out across three con­ti­nents, it is clear that they have been given the runaround by a 25 year-old kid and his agent fa­ther.

Barcelona con­firmed Ney­mar’s wish to leave the Cata­lan gi­ants yes­ter­day, but in­sisted the Brazil­ian’s €222 mil­lion (RM1.1 bil­lion) buy­out clause must be paid as his po­ten­tial world record move to Paris Saint Ger­main moved a step closer.

“Ney­mar Jr, ac­com­pa­nied by his fa­ther and rep­re­sen­ta­tive, com­mu­ni­cated to FC Barcelona this morn­ing his de­ci­sion to leave the club,” Barcelona said in a state­ment.

“The club have in­formed them that the buy­out clause in his con­tract that from July 1 is €222 mil­lion must be paid in full.”

Such a fee would smash the cur­rent record £89.3 mil­lion (RM506 mil­lion) Manch­ester United paid for Paul Pogba last year.

Ney­mar has also been given per­mis­sion to not par­tic­i­pate in train­ing af­ter mak­ing a brief ap­pear­ance at Barca’s train­ing ground yes­ter­day.

Spec­u­la­tion over the 25-yearold’s fu­ture has dom­i­nated the first few weeks of new Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde’s reign.

Pre­sum­ing both clubs don’t come to a late agree­ment, the buy­out clause would have to be paid to Barcelona via Spain’s La Liga to free the player from the con­tract he signed last year and runs un­til 2021.

How­ever, La Liga pres­i­dent Javier Te­bas has threat­ened not to ac­cept PSG’s money over what he per­ceives as a fail­ure on the French side’s part to com­ply with UEFA’s fi­nan­cial fair play rules (FFP). Clubs can be sanc­tioned by UEFA for mak­ing a loss of more than €30 mil­lion over a three-year pe­riod.

“We will not ac­cept this money from a club like PSG,” Te­bas told Madrid sports daily AS. “Es­pe­cially when this club is in­fring­ing rules and laws.”

If the deal is closed and the player leaves, Barcelona will need a re­place­ment for the Brazil­ian for­ward but, just as at the start of the sum­mer when their pur­suit of Marco Ver­atti came to noth­ing, they seem in­ca­pable of coldly iden­ti­fy­ing tar­gets and then swoop­ing to get what they want.

No one has won the Cham­pi­ons League more times than them this cen­tury and across those four Euro­pean Cup wins Barca be­came a by­word for fan­tasy foot­ball. And yet they strug­gle to make sign­ings and now, in the case of Ney­mar, to keep their most im­por­tant assets.

Mean­while, Liver­pool man­ager Jur­gen Klopp has re­it­er­ated to Barcelona that his star player Philippe Coutinho is not for sale this sum­mer.

The Cata­lan gi­ants have ear­marked Coutinho as one of their top trans­fer tar­gets, but the Reds boss has in­sisted he will be at An­field next sea­son.

Valverde is eye­ing a po­ten­tial re­place­ment for Ney­mar and he be­lieves Coutinho fits the bill.

But Klopp has re­peat­edly re­buffed sug­ges­tions the Brazil in­ter­na­tional will leave the Mersey­side club and has once more warned off his po­ten­tial suit­ors.

“I can un­der­stand that Coutinho is so highly rated, but they can save their en­ergy,” he said. Agen­cies

Ney­mar’s move to Paris Saint Ger­main has been heav­ily flagged in Euro­pean me­dia but has yet to be com­pleted.

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