Figo was a coward, Neymar just left for money - Gaspart

Even if Neymar ends up joining Real Madrid, former Barcelona chief Joan Gaspart says his exit was less contentious than Luis Figo's.

Neymar in action for PSG   -  AFP

Neymar signing for Real Madrid from Paris Saint-Germain would not be comparable to the direct defection of Luis Figo, who was a "coward" and "betrayed" Barcelona, according to the club's former president Joan Gaspart.

Madrid shook Spanish football in July 2000 when they paid Figo's €62million release clause, as Blancos president Florentino Perez made good on his election promise to club members and started the 'Galactico' era.

The move stoked the Clasico rivalry, leaving Barca fans helpless as they saw the world's best player join their arch-nemesis, breaking the transfer record in the process.

Neymar's world-record €222m switch to PSG caused similar outrage in August, with reports circulating soon after suggesting the Brazil star intended to line up a future transfer to Madrid without going directly from Barca.

However, Gaspart, who was elected Barca president the day before Madrid presented Figo as their player, dismissed similarities between the career trajectories of the two former Camp Nou favourites.

"Neymar's possible move to Madrid is not comparable with Figo," Gaspart told Radio Marca.

"Figo left with treachery and with no time to renew the team, and he was a coward who betrayed us. Neymar went for money, full stop."

Gaspart also rejected the idea that Lionel Messi could depart Barca in the event of Catalonia securing legitimate independence, and is adamant the club would still be able to keep him.

He added: "In a Catalan republic, Messi would continue at Barca because we would have a great team and we would still play in the Champions League.

"The problem we have now is stability in the country and that a government will conform."

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