Neymar and Barcelona sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta have both refused to be drawn on a potential summer transfer, despite Brazil coach Luis Felipe Scolari’s prediction that the forward will become an “idol” at the Camp Nou.
Scolari was in attendance on Sunday night as Barca beat Real Valladolid 2-1 before lifting the La Liga trophy in front of their home crowd.
The World Cup 2002-winning manager told Canal Plus that blaugrana supporters would enjoy seeing Neymar alongside Lionel Messi next year.
"The team he is closest to signing for, without a doubt, is Barcelona,” Scolari said. “Barca will make a great signing with Neymar. He will be, along with Messi, one of the idols for the fans next season.”
Barcelona president Sandro Rosell had already asked Scolari for a character reference ahead of a possible transfer, the former Chelsea boss revealed.
“As a sportsman he is an example,” Scolari said. “I have spoken with Sandro Rosell about how he behaves in training, how he is as a person. And without doubt he is an exemplary sportsman.”
However, when Scolari’s quotes were put to Barca’s sporting director after the game, Zubizarreta preferred to deflect the issue.
“Maybe Scolari knows more than me,” the former goalkeeper said. “We talk about news when we have to. We have to congratulate those [players] that are here.”
Neymar himself spoke with reporters in Brazil on Sunday night, after playing in Santos’ 1-1 draw with Corinthians in the Paulista state championship final second leg, a result which saw Corinthians take the trophy 3-2 on aggregate.
"I am happy here, I do not know if I am going to die playing for Santos, but this was not my last game here,” he was reported as saying in AS. “I am happy here, and I have told you that many times, but you [journalists] do not believe it.”
Reports in Catalonia have long suggested that Barcelona have a pre-contract arrangement with the Brazil international, who has regularly spoken about his admiration for the likes of Messi and Xavi Hernandez, although the Spanish media have hinted recently that Real Madrid president Florentino Perez is interested in making a move.
Neymar’s current club boss, Ramalho, told reporters in Brazil that the rumours of a transfer seemed stronger now than previously.
“There was speculation he was leaving in the past too and nothing happened,” he was reported as saying in AS. “Now it seems like the negotiations are stronger. We only listen to what you [journalists] say. But these rumours are bigger. In reality we still do not know anything. But the market is opening now and we know the possibility exists. He would be a big loss, the club would feel it.”
Santos’ board had done all it could to keep the player, but could only hold out for so long against the constant speculation, Ramalho suggested.
“Life is like this, Santos resisted quite a lot,” he said. “Our directors must be praised, but it is difficult to guarantee Neymar for much more time with all this hounding.”