Neymar 'honoured' to sign for Barca
An emotional Neymar bid farewell to Santos fans on Sunday night, while saying he was looking forward to fulfilling his dream of playing with Leo Messi, Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta at Barcelona.
Barca announced on Sunday morning that their complex and lengthy pursuit of the Brazilian starlet, 21, was finally at a close, and he is now expected to travel to Catalonia on June 3 or 4 to be formally presented as a Blaugrana jersey.
Speaking after his last game in a Santos shirt - a goalless draw against Flamengo on the opening day of the Brazilian season - the player himself said the reality of the move had yet to sink in.
"The meaning of signing for the best team in the world has not dropped yet," Neymar said. "It will be an honour to play there. To be able to play with Messi will be a dream ... with him, Xavi, Iniesta, them all."
The attacker also thanked Santos fans for their support in his four years as a senior player, during which he played 230 games and scored 138 goals, and suggested he would return later in his career.
"It is a satisfaction, an honour to have been at this team," he added. "This is just a 'till later', I will be back."
The move overshadowed Barca's 2-0 win at city rivals Espanyol on Sunday evening, when goals from Alexis Sanchez and Pedro Rodriguez kept their bid to reach 100 Primera Division points on track. After that game Dani Alves - now to be Neymar's team-mate at both club and international level - said his younger colleague would get all the help he needs to settle in Europe.
"I spoke with him and he is very happy that he is coming to Barcelona, he knows that he is coming to a big club and he knows how big this team can be," Alves said. "He knows that he is coming to a place where he will improve as a person and a professional. He knows that this club treats its players well, when he gets here he will see that this is the best club for him. Hopefully we can all help him [adjust] so then he can help us."
The end of the transfer saga was greeted with less jubilation at Real Madrid, who had long been keen to sign Neymar themselves. Blancos president Florentino Perez reportedly made a final push to try and muscle in on the deal last week by offering an €11 million annual salary - €4 million more than Barca offered, and €1 million more than Cristiano Ronaldo currently earns at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu - but the lure of playing with Messi and company was apparently stronger.
Speaking to Canal Plus after Madrid's 3-3 draw at Real Sociedad on Sunday evening, Blancos full-back Marcelo - also Neymar's colleague with Brazil - said there were no hard feelings and he wished the youngster well.
"The truth is I am happy for him, he is making a big leap in his career," Marcelo said. "I wish him the best."