Santos accepts offers for Neymar; player deciding
SAO PAULO (AP) -Brazilian club Santos accepted the offers made by Barcelona and Real Madrid for young striker Neymar, who will now decide where he wants to go.
Details of the offers were not made official, but Brazilian media reported that Real Madrid is willing to pay ?35 million for Neymar, ?7 million more than rival Barcelona. Real Madrid also reportedly offered a bigger salary, but the player has said in the past that his personal preference is to play alongside Lionel Messi in Barcelona.
Santos vice president Odilio Rodrigues said early Saturday that the offers were "similar,'' but admitted that Neymar had a "gentleman's agreement'' with Barcelona.
Neymar learned the details of the offers past midnight Brazilian time in the coastal city of Santos, but left Santos' headquarters without giving any hints about which team he will choose.
"I'm happy to know that these two clubs are interested in me. I'm very proud, it's one of the happiest moments of my life,'' a smiling Neymar said. "I'll look at both offers very carefully. I'll go home and make a decision along with my family. I'm not in a hurry. The decision may come in five minutes, in half an hour or in three days.''
Neymar was accompanied by his dad, Neymar Silva Santos, who handles the player's career. He said it will be mostly up to the youngster to decide his future.
"We are not going to rush into a decision,'' Santos said. "We will talk about it and see what he wants to do, it's his decision.''
Neymar's dad said the player was expected to play for Santos in the team's opening match in the Brazilian league on Sunday, against Flamengo in Brasilia.
Santos said on its official Twitter account late Friday that it "received two offers for Neymar'' and accepted to "negotiate the player.'' It said Neymar and his dad were "going to choose which offer'' to accept.
"We did everything we could to keep Neymar playing for Santos,'' vice president Rodrigues said.
Santos earlier this week reportedly rejected a ?20 million offer made by Barcelona, saying it was too low.
The club was trying to sell Neymar as quickly as possible because in six months the player will be allowed to sign a pre-contract with any other club, and the Brazilian team will not get anything in return.
The player officially rejected a ?35 million offer from Chelsea in 2010, and a year later Santos said five European teams contacted the club to try to sign the youngster, who eventually re-signed with Santos until the 2014 World Cup, with a buyout clause of ?65 million.
Bayern Munich reportedly also was trying to sign the 21-year-old forward, who is touted as the future of Brazilian football and the main player carrying the country's hopes to win the 2014 World Cup at home.
Neymar is likely to join his new club after playing for Brazil in the Confederations Cup in June. The transfer window in Europe will only open in July.
Neymar led Santos to its greatest run since Pele stopped playing for the club in the 1970s. The youngster helped Santos win the 2010 Brazilian Cup, the 2011 Copa Libertadores and three straight Sao Paulo state championships. He is the club's leading scorer in the post-Pele era with 138 goals in 229 matches.
This week Neymar topped the list of most marketable athletes in the world in a report published by SportsPro magazine, finishing ahead of Barcelona forward Lionel Messi and golfer Rory McIlroy. The list, produced in association with Eurosport, ranks athletes from across the world according to their marketing potential over the next three years.
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