The Latest: France spokesman links Neymar deal to Qatar
Aug. 04, 2017
PARIS (AP) — The Latest on Brazil soccer star Neymar's move from Barcelona to PSG (all times local):
French government spokesman Christophe Castaner says Neymar's transfer to Paris Saint-Germain is also serving Qatar's interests.
Speaking on LCI television, Castaner says, "we see very well that Qatar is involved in a communications operation, we see how Qatar wants to be a player, via sporting events, sporting presence, to be seen on the diplomatic stage."
PSG is owned by Qatar Sports Investments, a company linked to Qatar's ruling family.
Asked whether France would make any concessions in exchange for the "gift" of Neymar's arrival, Castaner insisted "there was no negotiated compensation" and insisted France wouldn't let the Neymar deal smooth over the Gulf diplomatic crisis and questions about Qatar's relationship with extremists.
Asked if France should be worried about Qatar trying to make diplomatic gains out of the deal, he said: "We don't need to be suspicious of one country or another. But we have the right to ask questions. ... France favors pursuing dialogue because today there are extremely high tensions (between Qatar and its neighbors) and it's not healthy for them to continue."
"There are specific questions that have been asked of Qatar, notably about the financing of terrorism. It's essential that Qatar shows total transparency on these subjects."
Despite paying 222 million ($262 million) euros for Neymar, PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi is convinced he has sealed a good deal.
Al-Khelaifi says that before Neymar's signing PSG was worth one billion euros, "and now it is worth 1.5 billion."
He added that Neymar, who signed a five-year contract and will reportedly earn 30 million euros a year, will soon be worth "double" the price PSG paid for his services.
Al-Khelaifi also insists PSG did not breach UEFA's financial fair play rules with the transfer.
"For people worrying about FFP, go and have a coffee, there are no problems," he said. "We have been very transparent."
Barcelona defender Gerard Pique has bid a fond farewell to Neymar, calling him his "little brother."
Pique, who is five years older than Neymar, accompanied a photo of him embracing the Brazilian in the changing room posted on Instagram with his goodbye message.
Pique writes in Spanish "From the moment you arrived, I saw you as my little brother."
He says: "I'm happy that you have won everything wearing the Barca shirt. That will last forever. Players like you make this club and its history even greater. ... I hope you have a great future. You deserve that the dreams you still have come true in Paris."
Neymar won a Champions League, two Spanish league trophies, three Copa del Reys, one Club World Cup, a UEFA Super Cup and two Spanish Super Cups in his four seasons at Barcelona.
Neymar says he is ready to start playing with PSG as soon as Saturday when his new team opens its league campaign against promoted Amiens.
Neymar says, "I'm always hungry for football, and I think I can play."
PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi says Neymar did not join PSG for the money.
Al-Khelaifi says at a news conference he could have earned "more money" at other clubs interested in signing him but chose PSG for the sporting challenge.
Al-Khelaifi also confirmed there is a buyout clause attached to Neymar's new contract but did not reveal its amount.
Neymar says leaving Barcelona was the most difficult decision in his life.
Neymar says during his first press conference with PSG that leaving Barcelona equated to leaving "great friends and fantastic players."
Neymar adds, however, that he needs "new challenges" in his career.
Neymar's first press conference with Paris Saint-Germain has started in a room packed with reporters, photographers and TV crews.
PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi opens by saying Neymar is a "worldwide idol" and "the best player in the world."
Al-Khelaifi adds, "He signed with us to will all possible trophies."
Barcelona says that it is "very displeased" with Neymar and will not pay its former player the 26 million euros ($30.9 million) stipulated as a bonus in his last contract.
Barcelona spokesman Josep Vives says "the club will not pay the bonus" that Neymar is due from a contract renewal last year that was supposed to keep him at the Spanish club through 2021.
Vives says that Barcelona's board is "displeased with the decision and displeased by the manners" of Neymar, who signed a five-year contract with PSG on Thursday after triggering his 222 million euros ($262 million) release clause.
Vives says that Barcelona would have liked Neymar to have had "a more open, clearer, a more sincere position" with the club about his desire to leave.
Neymar is hinting that his father was opposed to his signing with Paris Saint-Germain.
In a message posted on social media, Neymar says that "an athlete needs challenges. And for the second time in my life, I'll contradict my father. Father, I understand and respect your opinion, but my decision is made and I ask you to support me as you always do."
Neymar's father, Neymar Santos Sr, is also his agent.
Hundreds of fans are lining up on the Champs-Elysees to get their hands on the first Paris Saint-Germain jerseys emblazoned with Neymar's name after his world-record transfer.
The shirts cost 155 euros ($184).
When posters of the Brazilian, accompanied by the words "Welcome to a Paris Neymar Jr 10" were unveiled on windows of the flagship PSG club store, the crowd cheered.
Michael Biancolin, who had waited more than three hours, was the first fan to leave the store parading a yellow PSG shirt.
The 25-year-old Neymar is due to be presented to the media at the PSG stadium later Friday, a day after his 222 million-euro ($262 million) buyout clause from Barcelona was activated.