Santos star Neymar has again refused to be drawn on a future outside of Brazil, despite being linked to Europe’s biggest clubs.
The 20-year-old has a contract with Santos that runs until the 2014 World Cup and the firm suggestion has always been that he will remain in Brazil until after the tournament. What happens beyond that, Neymar claims to have not yet decided.
“Even I don’t know that,” he said in an interview with FIFA.com. “My contract runs to 2014 but there’s still a long way to go before the World Cup. I don’t know if I’ll renew it or not. It’s a personal issue and I’ll have to talk it through with my family and Santos. We’ll definitely speak about it further down the line.”
Yet with the interest continuing from Europe, there must be a doubt as to whether Santos would risk losing the player for nothing at the end of his contract. The third parties, who are believed to have a 40 percent stake in his economic rights, would also surely have a big say in Neymar’s future. To that regard, UEFA’s recent request that FIFA outlaw all third-party ownership could also have an impact on Neymar.
Many have questioned whether Neymar may be hampering his progression as a player by staying in Brazil rather than testing himself against the very best for the likes of Barcelona in the Champions League. Neymar disputes that theory.
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“You can develop and improve your game whether you’re in Brazil or not,” he claimed. “Personally I feel I’m becoming a better player and getting more experience as every year goes by. Some people say you have to leave to develop but I don’t agree with that.”
Barcelona have been the club linked strongest to securing a player already seen as a global star. There have been denials that the La Liga leaders already have a deal in place to sign Neymar in 2014. At the same time, there have been suggestions that Barcelona would be keen to see Neymar arrive a year earlier, with the likely departure of David Villa in mind.
Neymar’s Brazil teammate Dani Alves has often publicly urged the forward to join him at Barcelona, something with which Neymar does not feel entirely comfortable.
“Dani’s always embarrassing me!” he laughed. “He’s put me in a tight spot.”
Yet, Barcelona’s fierce rivals Real Madrid are also said to be in the hunt. Just last week Spanish publication El Mundo Deportivo reported that Madrid president Florentino Perez approached Neymar at the recent FIFA Ballon d’Or gala to discover his intentions. According to the report, Neymar is set on a move to Barcelona.
A new club is believed to have joined the race for Neymar of late, though, with Pep Guardiola said to have pinpointed him as one of his first signings for Bayern Munich in the summer. With the former Barcelona boss set to be given significant funds, money would not appear to be an issue.
A move to the Premier League, due to its footballing and wider culture, remains more of an outside bet. Yet Manchester United were reported to have bid for the player last summer and Sir Alex Ferguson has often shown himself to be a persuasive force.
Chelsea also have been strongly linked to Neymar and Roman Abramovich may be desperate to bring the current foremost exponent, in its birthplace, of "Jogo Bonito" to Stamford Bridge to help bring his desire for stylish play to fruition.