The complete Neymar saga - the Brazilian won't sign for Real Madrid and it's all Florentino's fault as Barcelona switch draws closer
The 20-year-old forward has rejected a move to the Santiago Bernabeu and the Catalan club have now emerged as favourites in the race for his signature.
At one point, his future looked certain to be at Real Madrid, but he himself has closed that door, and his next colours now look likely to be the red and blue of Barcelona. Here, Goal.com reveals the full story behind one of the most protracted transfer tales of recent times.
Real's interest in the Brazilian forward began midway through the last decade, when a 13-year-old Neymar travelled to Madrid as the Spanish side signed Santos' star striker Robinho. Wagner Ribeiro, who represented both players, tried to tie up a deal there and then for the young forward to follow in the footsteps of his idol, and Florentino Perez was keen, only to miss out on his signing at the time due to red tape. But when Neymar blossomed years later in Santos' starting XI, Perez picked up the phone again to contact his agent.
Ribeiro was now going through a difficult situation. He had just separated from his wife, which had left him in a delicate financial predicament. In exchange for his player signing for Madrid, Florentino agreed to lend money to the agent, promising to waive the loan or further compensate Ribeiro on Neymar's eventual arrival at the Santiago Bernabeu.
From then on, the agent practically became a representative for Real, and he convinced Neymar to sign for Madrid. With the player's agreement, Florentino then offered to pay Santos the youngster's release clause, although the negotiations were complicated as Perez refused to settle the money up front, proposing instead to fund the deal in several payments over the next few years.
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But the biggest difficulty concerned the actual timing of the proposed transfer. Santos asked Madrid to let them keep Neymar until 2013, allowing him to play in the Club World Cup and take part in the club's centenary celebrations, on April 12, 2012, for which a large party is being prepared with illustrious invitees from the side's past and present. Perez refused, and demanded that the transfer be pushed through with immediate effect. And in order to unblock the complicated situation, the parties decided on a conference call, which would determine the outcome of the transfer.
And it certainly did that. The participants in that call, which took place at the beginning of last year, were Florentino, Julio Senn and Jose Angel Sanchez on behalf of Madrid; Neymar, his father and representative Ribeiro as well as some other agents, and Santos president Luis Alvaro Ribeiro for the Brazilian side. At that moment, the player still had some doubts over whether it was the right time to leave Brazil, given that Santos were still seeking success in the Copa Libertadores. His father decided to express those doubts at the beginning of the meeting.
Florentino, instead of 'selling' the club to the player and the ideal surroundings that would await him and boost his career on securing his move to Spanish football, became irritated with the intervention of Neymar Senior and accused the player of "failing to understand that Real Madrid are the biggest club in the world", telling the teenager he should be grateful for his side's interest and revealing that, should the deal go through, by no means could he be guaranteed a starting spot in the first team.