PARIS — Neymar has become the most expensive player in soccer history after completing his blockbuster transfer to Paris Saint-Germain from Barcelona on Thursday for 222 million euros ($262 million).
PSG triggered the release clause in the forward’s Barcelona contract, which was more than double the previous transfer record set a year ago when Manchester United paid 105 million euros (then $116 million) for Paul Pogba.
PSG said in a statement that the 25-year-old Neymar had signed a five-year contract, until June 2022.
PSG said “his arrival into the Paris Saint-Germain family emphasizes more than ever the club’s aims to rise to the top of world football.”
In his four seasons in Spain, Neymar scored 105 goals as Barcelona won the Champions League, Club World Cup, two Spanish league titles and Copa del Rey three times.
Neymar is escaping the shadow of five-time world player of the year Lionel Messi at Barcelona, and will become the biggest star in the French league in a team without the track record of success to match his former club.
While Barcelona has lifted the European Cup five times and won the FIFA Club World Cup three times, PSG is yet to win either prestigious competition.
“I am extremely happy to join Paris Saint-Germain,” Neymar said in a statement. “Since I arrived in Europe, the club has always been one of the most competitive and most ambitious. And the biggest challenge, what most motivated me to join my new teammates, is to help the club to conquer the titles that their fans want.”
PSG’s announcement put an end to a saga that started about two weeks ago with rumors of his possible transfer. PSG had already tried to lure him to the City of Light last summer.
Neymar’s representatives cleared the way for the former Santos player to join PSG by paying the buyout clause earlier Thursday. Neymar is expected in Paris on Friday and will hold a news conference early in the afternoon, PSG said.
It is unclear whether he will be ready to play for his new team on Saturday when PSG starts its new league campaign against promoted Amiens at the Parc des Princes. But he will be presented to the fans the same day at PSG’s ground.
“It is with immense joy and pride that we welcome Neymar Jr to Paris Saint-Germain,” PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi said. “Neymar Jr is today one of the very best players in world football. His winning mentality, strength of character and sense of leadership have made him into a great player. He will bring a very positive energy to this club.
“In six years, we have built a very ambitious project that has already taken us to the highest level of national and European football. Today, with the arrival of Neymar Jr, I am convinced that we will come even closer, with the support of our faithful fans, to realizing our greatest dreams.”
In a statement, Barcelona said that “the club will pass on to UEFA the details of the above operation so that they can determine the disciplinary responsibilities that may arise from this case.”
The comment followed a claim by Spanish league president Javier Tebas on Wednesday that Neymar’s move would break Financial Fair Play rules introduced by UEFA, European soccer’s ruling body.
Barcelona did all it could to stop Neymar from leaving, and had vowed to complain to UEFA if his seemingly untouchable release clause was triggered.
The payment of the clause directly to the club was the second attempt Neymar’s representatives had made on Thursday to break his bond with Barcelona. Earlier in the day, his lawyer Juan de Dios Crespo had tried to deposit the enormous sum at the Spanish league’s offices in Madrid, but he was turned away.
Tebas had told Spanish sports daily AS that he wouldn’t let the league act as an intermediary to an operation that he, like Barcelona, believed violated UEFA’s FFP rules. He had called PSG a “state-supported club.” The club’s Qatari owners are closely linked to the energy-rich ruling family. — Bloomberg