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May 27, 2013

Neymar signs 5-year deal with Barca

SAO PAULO -- Brazilian striker Neymar says he is officially a Barcelona player.

Neymar said he signed a five-year contract agreement with the Spanish powerhouse on Monday, two days after announcing that he decided to pick the Catalan club instead of Real Madrid.

"I'm sad to be leaving Santos, but it's a great honor to be signing with a club like Barcelona and to be able to play with some of the best players in the world," Neymar said.

The 21-year-old Brazilian will be joining a star-filled roster that already includes four-time FIFA Player of the Year Lionel Messi, Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta.

Neither Neymar nor Barcelona released financial details of the transfer, but Brazilian media said the Spanish club will pay about 30 million euros ($38.8 million) for the youngster. Santos had fielded offers from Barcelona and Real Madrid and said it was up to Neymar to decide where he wanted to play.

Neymar posted a message on Twitter and Instagram announcing his departure from the Brazilian club where he has thrived since he began playing professionally as a teenager in 2009.

"Here it ends this wonderful passage with a special club," Neymar said. "Thank you for everything. I'll keep these moments with me my entire life."

Neymar led Santos to its greatest run since Pele stopped playing for the club in the 1970s. He helped Santos win the 2010 Brazilian Cup, the 2011 Copa Libertadores and three straight Sao Paulo state championships. He remains the club's leading scorer in the post-Pele era with 138 goals in 230 matches.

Neymar's father, Neymar Silva Santos, said that on Monday they signed a contract establishing the terms of the transfer, and a final document will be signed in Spain by Santos, his son and Barcelona.

Neymar will join up with Brazil's Confederations Cup squad on Tuesday and is expected to travel to Spain for his official introduction to Barcelona fans on June 2 after the national team's friendly against England at the Maracana.

He wanted to play one last match with Santos at the Vila Belmiro Stadium, but the Brazilian football federation did release him from the national team's preparation for the Confederations Cup.

Neymar said he doesn't mind if he is not given the No. 11 jersey that he was used to wearing with Santos and Brazil.

"Let's see what's available, that's not going to be a problem," he said.

Neymar also said that he still wasn't sure whether his family would make the move to Barcelona with him.

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