Neymar is headed for an exit from Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) to follow his former teammate Lionel Messi away from the French champion in its turbulent summer.
A person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press talks are moving toward Neymar leaving the club this month. The person spoke on Thursday on condition of anonymity to discuss confidential negotiations.
The 31-year-old Brazil international was widely reported to have told PSG this week he wants to leave, just days before the team begins its French title defence. His expected preference is a return to Barcelona, which he left for a world-record fee of 222 million euros ($244 million) six years ago.
The Qatar-owned club is also dealing with uncertainty over Kylian Mbappé’s future at his hometown club.
New PSG coach Luis Enrique is expected to address the media on Friday ahead of the team’s season opener against Lorient on Saturday.
Enrique coached Neymar for some of the Brazilian’s peak years at Barcelona. A storied forward line of Messi, Neymar and Luis Suárez fired Barcelona to a treble-winning season of Champions League, La Liga and Spanish Cup in 2014-15.
Eight years later, it is unclear Enrique sees Neymar as key to his plans in Paris despite Messi’s summer departure to Inter Miami and doubts about Mbappé.
Mbappé has been banished from first-team training in an open dispute with PSG over his wish to play out the final season of his contract and join Real Madrid as a free agent next year.
PSG has said it cannot let Mbappé leave for free and wants to sell him now if he will not extend his contract.
Though PSG accepted a world-record bid of 300 million euros ($330 million) for Mbappé from Al Hilal, the France star declined to meet the Saudi Arabian club’s officials in Paris.
The Saudi Pro League is also a possible destination for Neymar with state-backed clubs easily able to afford the transfer fee and salary he would command.
Barcelona used close to half of the sum it received for Neymar in 2017 to buy Ousmane Dembélé from Borussia Dortmund. The France forward is now being strongly linked this month to joining PSG — possibly replacing Neymar for a second time.
PSG also has signed Portugal forward Gonçalo Ramos on a one-year loan deal from Benfica with an option to buy outright.
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