Neymar: Will it be Real or Barca?

In demand Santos striker Neymar is expected to leave Brazilian club for European football in the coming weeks.

    Brazilian sensation: Neymar has Real Madrid, Barcelona and reportedly Bayern Munich fighting to sign him [AFP]
    Brazilian sensation: Neymar has Real Madrid, Barcelona and reportedly Bayern Munich fighting to sign him [AFP]

    Neymar trained with his Santos teammates on Saturday in what was likely his last practice session at the Brazilian club before making his much-anticipated move to European football with either Barcelona or Real Madrid.

    A day after Santos said they accepted the offers from Spanish powerhouses Barcelona and Real Madrid, Neymar practiced normally ahead of the team's inaugural match in the Brazilian league. The game against Flamengo on Sunday will likely be his last with Santos' jersey.

    "I'm not in a hurry. The decision may come in five minutes or in three days"

    - Neymar

    The 21-year-old striker, considered the future of Brazilian football,learned the details of the offers late on Friday and said he would 'look at both offers very carefully' before making a decision.

    He didn't say when he was expected to make an announcement.

    Neymar gathered his Santos teammates before Saturday's practice and talked to them for about five minutes.

    Neymar said late on Friday he was 'very proud' to have Barcelona and Real Madrid interested in him and said it was 'one of the happiest moments' of his life.

    "I'll go home and make a decision along with my family," he said.

    "I'm not in a hurry. The decision may come in five minutes or in three days."

    'Gentleman's agreement'

    Neymar will likely join his new club after playing for Brazil in the Confederations Cup. The transfer window in Europe opens in July.

    Details of the offers from Barcelona and Real Madrid were not made official by Santos, but vice president Odilio Rodrigues said that they were 'similar.'

    He hinted that Neymar already had a 'gentleman's agreement' with Barcelona, which is the team the player has always said he wanted to play for.

    Brazilian media reported that Real Madrid was willing to pay Santos $45 million for Neymar, $9 million more than rival Barcelona. Real Madrid also reportedly offered a bigger salary. Spanish media said the total Barcelona would spend on Neymar could reach about $65 million.

                  Brazilian soccer star Pele says Neymar has potential to be better than Lionel Messi [AP]

    Santos earlier this week reportedly rejected a $25 million offer made by Barcelona, saying it was too low. The club was trying to sell Neymar as quickly as possible because in six months the player will be allowed to sign a pre-contract with any other club, and the Brazilian team will not get anything in return.

    Santos officially rejected a $45 million offer from Chelsea in 2010 and the player eventually re-signed with the Brazilian club until the 2014 World Cup, with a buyout clause of $84 million.

    Bayern Munich reportedly also was trying to sign the 21-year-old forward, who is the main player carrying Brazil's hopes to win the 2014 World Cup at home.

    Neymar is an idol on the field and a celebrity off it in the South American country. He appears in dozens of television commercials or on billboards by sponsors that make him by far the best paid athlete in Brazil.

    This week he topped the list of most marketable athletes in the world in a report published by SportsPro magazine, finishing ahead of Barcelona forward Lionel Messi and golfer Rory McIlroy.

    The Brazilian won FIFA's award for the best goal of the year in 2011 and was a finalist last year. He also made the best player of the year award list.

    But he is also criticised by some in Europe for his dives and alleged attempts to fake injuries. Former Brazil and Santos great Pele has repeatedly said that Neymar has the potential to be the best player in the world, even better than Messi, but he is one of the critics who recently said Neymar should try to stop diving so much.

    Neymar is also criticised for disappointing performances at decisive moments with Brazil. His recent lackluster performances with the national team even attracted loud jeers from home fans.

    Neymar led Santos to their greatest run since Pele stopped playing for the club in the 1970s. The youngster helped Santos win the 2010 Brazilian Cup, the 2011 Copa Libertadores and three straight Sao Paulo state championships.

    He is the club's leading scorer in the post-Pele era with 138 goals in 229 matches.



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