Santos star Neymar continues to be one of the world’s most sought-after players. After long being linked with a move to Barcelona, the news that former Barca boss Pep Guardiola has agreed to take over at Bayern Munich has given rise to speculation that Neymar could be on his way to the German giants.
The 20-year-old confirmed he is an admirer of Guardiola but reiterated his desire to remain in Sao Paulo.
"Guardiola is a great coach," Neymar told Globo Esporte.
"He is one of the best in the world and I do want to work with him, as well as with other great coaches.
"But I'll say it again: I want to stay at Santos, I am happy here."
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Neymar has consistently said that he will remain in Brazil until the World Cup in his home country in 2014. Unlike in past years, there is no great financial incentive for Brazil’s hottest property to move to Europe.
The forward is one of the best-paid players in the world and was one of only five players across the globe whose total earnings on and off the pitch in 2012 were in excess of €20 million (£12.7m).
Neymar then may be happy to bide his time and negate the risk of a move causing his form to drop before the World Cup. Santos will surely not be eager for his contract to be allowed to run down, however, and avoid missing out on a transfer fee—even though it is reported that 40 percent of his economic rights are owned by a third party.
If Santos were to pressure Neymar to sign a new deal then a split may well form leading to an earlier transfer.
It had been strongly speculated toward the end of last year that Barcelona were primed to sign Neymar in the summer. In fact, there had been reports that a deal had already been agreed. For Barcelona it may make perfect sense.
David Villa has fallen out of favor since his return from a broken leg and it appears increasingly likely that the Spain international will leave at the end of the season. That would leave a gap in their forward ranks, which Neymar would be the most exciting candidate to fill.
But Villa, as well as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, presents a cautionary tale to Neymar in deciding whether to join Barcelona. Both Villa and Ibrahimovic arrived at the Camp Nou for huge fees but failed to shine as they have elsewhere. It is more than a suspicion in both cases that Lionel Messi’s presence was just too imposing to allow another attacking superstar to flourish.
If Neymar sees that as an issue then Bayern Munich would be an attractive proposition. He would doubtless be the star of a Bayern front line that may get a radical overhaul under Guardiola. Mario Gomez does not immediately strike as a Guardiola-type player, while in Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben, the Spaniard may well see two players who would serve the team harmony better if they were dispatched elsewhere—as Ronaldinho and Deco were when Guardiola took charge at the Camp Nou.
There is also sure to be plenty of interest from England in Neymar’s signature. Chelsea have long been linked and their wealth and owner Roman Abramovich’s desire for champagne soccer would surely see them willing to offer whatever it took to bring Neymar to Stamford Bridge.
The same may be true of Manchester City.
Manchester United may too enter the race. It was reported that the Premier League leaders made a late bid to try and bring Neymar to Old Trafford in the closing stages of last summer’s transfer window.
They missed out on one young Brazilian back in August as Lucas Moura headed to nouveau-riche Paris Saint-Germain, but United may be willing to pull out all the stops to land a player of Neymar’s greater ability.
The climate and footballing culture—in terms of less tolerance for play acting—will count against a move to England, but he could yet be persuaded otherwise. English fans and clubs will get an up-close look at the boy wonder when Neymar and Brazil take on England in a friendly next month.
While we are no closer to knowing Neymar’s next move, his impish display of trickery against Botafogo on Wednesday provided yet another example of why his arrival in Europe is so hotly poured over and anticipated.