Tuesday 26 September 2017

Lionel Messi says his goodbye to Neymar ahead of the Brazilian's €222m world-record move to PSG

Lionel Messi and Neymar
Lionel Messi and Neymar

Jack Austin

Lionel Messi has said his goodbyes to Neymar and wished him the best for his “new stage” ahead of the Brazilian’s €222m (£198m) move from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain.

Neymar was given permission to miss training on Wednesday by manager Ernesto Valverde after informing the club of his decision to leave the Nou Camp and move to Paris, where his representatives were waiting his arrival.

The Brazilian formed a third of the ‘MSN’ attack at the La Liga giants alongside Messi and Luis Suarez, which guided Barca to the Champions League in 2014 and terrorised defences across Europe.

Messi, who himself wanted to leave Barcelona last summer, took to Instagram to wish his soon-to-be former teammate all the best in Ligue 1.

He wrote: “Enormous pleasure to have shared all these years with you friend Neymar I wish you luck in this new stage of your life.”

High-level Barcelona sources have told The Independent that there has been a shift in attitude at Catalan club over the past few days, with top officials now fed up with what is seen as little more than greed from the 25-year-old’s entourage.

The Independent also understands that some of his senior Barcelona teammates have been aggravated by the way his exit has panned out, and feel that his departure is now what’s best for the club.

Barcelona have been prepared for the eventual loss of Neymar for the last few weeks and have already started targeting potential replacements in the shape of Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho and Juventus forward Paulo Dybala, a close friend of Lionel Messi’s given that they regularly play online games with each other.

However, the main target, as revealed by The Independent on Tuesday, is Borussia Dortmund forward Ousmane Dembele. The 20-year-old France international has been regularly monitored by the Catalans and they believe that they can sign him for around £70m, much less than it will cost to sign Dybala given his importance in securing Juventus the Serie A title last season as well as guiding the side to the Champions League final.

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