Paris, France, Aug 4 – Neymar was unveiled as a Paris Saint-Germain player on Friday following his sensational world record transfer saying he had left Barcelona not for money but a “bigger challenge” in France.
The 25-year-old Brazilian superstar flew into Le Bourget airport, north-east of Paris, in a private jet on Friday morning before heading into the city in a motorcade.
He was presented to the international media at PSG’s Parc des Princes stadium just after 1:30pm (1130 GMT) in his first public appearance since buying out his contract at Barcelona for a world-record 222 million euros ($264 million) on Thursday.
“I want something bigger, a greater challenge. I am here to give my best and help the club win titles,” said Neymar, who has signed a five-year contract with the Qatar-owned club expected to be worth 30 million euros net per year.
He insisted he had come to France “for the ambition of the club, which is very similar to mine.”
But Neymar admitted that leaving Barcelona, where he formed part of a lethal attacking trio with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, was not a decision he took lightly.
“It was one of my most difficult decisions. In Barcelona I had adapted well to the city and the team. I had friends there and it has not been easy,” he said.
“It was a tense time, thinking about what I should do in my life. I have left behind a lot of friends, but things go very fast in football.”
Neymar will be presented to the PSG support on Saturday prior to his new team’s first game of the Ligue 1 season against promoted Amiens.
A ceremony will begin from 3:45pm (1345 GMT) with the kick-off put back quarter of an hour to 5:15pm to allow extra time for the player’s unveiling before an expected sell-out crowd of more than 45,000.
But Neymar got a taste of what is to come when he stepped outside the Parc des Princes on Friday in his new team’s kit, to be greeted by hundreds of ecstatic supporters.
Neymar, whose last game for Barcelona was in a friendly against bitter rivals Real Madrid last weekend in Miami, insisted he is ready to make his debut against Amiens, even though he had not yet spoken to PSG coach Unai Emery.
“I always want to play, so I am ready to do so tomorrow. I have trained in pre-season. I stopped for two days, but I am ready, I’ve seen the pitch and I want to put the PSG shirt on and play,” he said.
On Thursday, the French league’s governing body, the LFP, said it would work to ensure Neymar’s contract was ratified “as soon as possible”.
At 30 million euros a year, that contract will make Neymar the second highest-paid player in the world — behind Carlos Tevez and his 38 million euros a year at Shanghai Shenhua in China but ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo’s 23.6 million euros annual salary at Real Madrid.
The transfer fee shatters the previous world record of 105 million euros set by Manchester United in signing the France midfielder Paul Pogba last year from Juventus.
It is an eye-watering sum, but one that PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi insisted will eventually look like a bargain for the player who came third in the Ballon d’Or in 2015 behind Messi and Ronaldo.
“There are not two Neymars in the world. I would love for us to meet in two years and see what his value will be compared to today. At least the double,” said Al-Khelaifi.
There is 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.
But the impact of Neymar’s arrival could be seen early on Friday morning on the Champs Elysees in Paris, where more than 1,000 fans queued outside a club superstore in order to get their hands on a PSG shirt with Neymar’s name and number on the back.
And on the field PSG are hoping Neymar, who will wear the number 10 shirt, can help them win back the Ligue 1 title lost to Monaco last season, and also finally get their hands on the Champions League trophy.
“For me he is the best player in the world. He has already brought a positive energy to the team. This makes us stronger and makes Ligue 1 more interesting across the world. He has signed to win every trophy possible,” said Al-Khelaifi.