Neymar played a game of cat and mouse with Barcelona before joining Paris Saint-Germain to become the world’s most expensive footballer, according to the Spanish club’s vice-president Jordi Mestre.
PSG paid up the €222million release clause in the Brazilian’s contract in August to break up the Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar partnership – known as ‘MSN’.
Neymar has subsequently scored 18 league goals to help PSG build an 11-point lead at the top of Ligue 1, although Barcelona, shorn of the Brazilian, are in a similarly dominant position in LaLiga.
Barca and Neymar face a court date over a disputed bonus payment and Mestre suggested the player was not open and honest with Barcelona about his intentions to leave the club, having travelled with his colleagues on a pre-season tour of the United States.
“What hurt me the most was the way it happened,” Mestre told Sport. “We were all on tour talking with him and his father, and they were not transparent.
“If he came to us and said, ‘I want to go’, like Cesc [Fabregas], Pedro, Alexis [Sanchez], [Javier] Mascherano did, we would have reached an agreement. What you can’t do is rock the boat.
“He played cat and mouse with us. It arrived at a point where we saw where things were going so we told him we would not pay his contract renewal fee.
“He told us nothing. If he had done, PSG would have been able to buy him for less money and it would have cost us less to sign [replacements] too.
“What Neymar’s behaviour created was the market inflation. We would have saved a lot of money and a lot of media noise.”
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) August 7, 2017
Dani Alves has suggested PSG and Brazil team-mate Neymar had to leave Barcelona to escape from the shadow of Messi, an idea Mestre agrees was central to the 25-year-old’s decision to move on.
“Neymar saw he would never be number one while Messi was at Barcelona,” the club’s vice-president added. “And, evidently, there will only be one Messi.
“He realised to be number one in the world he would have to leave Barca and it’s fair enough for him to think like that. It was a little earthquake, because the [MSN] trident was gone, and [coach Ernesto] Valverde, who had just arrived, would be left without him.
“But everyone did a great job, we didn’t lose our nerve or go mad. The squad was cut down as the coach wanted. From 24 players we went to 22 and we have a lot of quality, experience, talent and youth. And on top of all that, we still have Messi.”
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) January 8, 2018
Barca moved to sign Philippe Coutinho last month in a club-record €160m deal, to help to fill the void left by Neymar, but Mestre said the club will continue to be financially cautious, suggesting the former Liverpool playmaker made sacrifices to switch to LaLiga.
“He made a big economic effort, like Mascherano and Luis Suarez in their day,” Mestre said. “This shows the desire they have to play at Barca.
“The salary cost is high, yes, because to have the players we have is not cheap. Our priority is sporting excellence and economic rigour. One brings the other. They are closely linked.
“Every year we have the same amount [to spend in the transfer market] – €60m plus sales.”
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