Football

Neymar can go, but there are no offers: PSG sporting director Leonardo

PSG sporting director Leonardo says talks with Barcelona 'very superficial'

Paris Saint-Germain sporting director Leonardo said Neymar is free to leave the French champions, but there have been no offers for him and only "superficial" talks with his former club Barcelona.

The Brazilian forward joined PSG from Barcelona on a five-year deal for a world-record transfer fee of 222 million euros (S$338.5m) in 2017.

"Neymar can leave PSG if there is an offer that suits everyone. But to date, we do not know if anyone wants to buy him or at what price. All this is not done in a day, that's for sure," Leonardo told Le Parisien.

"It's clear to everyone (that he wants to leave) but, in football, you say one thing today and tomorrow another... It's amazing, but it's like that. We talked with his entourage too. Everyone knows everything."

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu said last week that Neymar wanted to return to Spain, but PSG were reluctant to sell him.

Said Leonardo: "We have not received any offers. But we have had, it's true, very superficial contacts (with Barcelona). They said they wanted to buy, but we were not sellers.

"He's (Bartomeu) the one saying it... But we did not see that Barcelona were really in a buyer position."

PSG said on Monday that they would take action against the 27-year-old forward after he failed to report for training.

In a terse statement, the French champions noted: "On Monday July 8, Neymar da Silva Santos Junior was due to return to pre-season activities with the Paris Saint-Germain senior squad.

"Paris Saint-Germain note that Neymar Jr was not in attendance at the agreed time and place. This was without the club's prior authorisation.

"The club regret this situation and will therefore take appropriate action."

In Rio, Brazilian media quoted Neymar's father as saying that PSG "were aware" his son would be absent.

"The reason (for his no-show) was known and planned for a year as part of his activities for the Neymar Institute (charitable foundation)," said his father.

"We couldn't postpone them and he will return (to PSG) on July 15. It's as simple as that, no drama.

"PSG are aware and take part in the Institute's activities."

Last week, Barcelona's vice-president Jordi Cardoner said: "What is correct, at the current time, what I have read, what I have heard, which seems exact, is that Neymar wants to come back to Barcelona."

CONTRACT TERMS AGREED

Media reports have indicated that PSG and Barca's intermediaries have hammered out the terms of a deal which would free the Brazilian star to return to his former club.

Spanish sports newspaper Diario Sport claims a five-year contract has been agreed.

The daily said last week the terms include Neymar reducing his salary from around 36m euros at PSG to the 24m euros he received at Barca in 2017.

The 27-year-old spent four years at Nou Camp, winning the Champions League in 2015 and two La Liga titles. He formed a brilliant attacking trio with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.

But Neymar's time at PSG has been punctuated by injury and controversy.

He was questioned by Brazilian police last month over allegations he raped a woman he met through social media in a Paris hotel - charges he has denied.

And the Brazilian star will miss three Champions League matches next season as punishment for insulting a referee, following PSG's second-leg Champions League collapse against Manchester United in the Round of 16.

PSG president Nasser Al Khelaifi has warned Neymar and his other highly paid stars that they must shape up or ship out, claiming "celebrity behaviour" will no longer be tolerated.

Spanish media have reported that one of the conditions Barca have laid out for Neymar is that he must publicly apologise for the manner of his departure, but Barcelona legend Carles Puyol believes the club should ignore the Brazilian's past behaviour.

He told Spanish media: "In the end, you have to value the present, not so much the past.

"If the player is on the market and you need him, you don't have to be thinking about what happened a few years ago."

DEFENSIVE PROBLEMS

However, fellow former Barca and Spain international Lobo Carrasco believes Neymar's return would cause problems defensively.

He told TV programme El Chiringuito: "I do not want Neymar to come...

"With the signing of Neymar, Barca would lose even more at the back. They were swept in Europe, (Liverpool) got us 4-0.

"If we have a further breakdown in defence, are we going to go from four to six goals?"

However, former Barca star Rivaldo believes it is possible to accommodate not just Neymar, but fellow transfer target Antoine Griezmann.

He said: "Messi-Suarez-Neymar-Griezmann would be fantastic for Barcelona. An attack with these four players would be spectacular and it's possible to accommodate them all.

"It would be just a question of preparing a good system in training to make it possible." - REUTERS, AFP

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