The world’s most expensive footballer Neymar insists it was ambition and not the lure of riches that convinced him to swap Barcelona for Paris St Germain.
Brazil forward Neymar, 25, has signed a five-year deal with ambitious Ligue 1 club PSG after his legal representatives paid Barca 222 million euros (£200.6million) to release him from his contract at the Nou Camp.
Neymar, who won the Champions League and two LaLiga titles with Barca, will reportedly earn 30m euros (£27m) net per year at PSG, or close to 600,000 euros (£540,000) each week after tax.
But the man hailed as “the best player in the world” by PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi at a press conference on Friday stressed his desire to help the French team achieve their dream of European glory was his guiding influence.
He said: “I wanted a new challenge. This was about ambition. My heart told me that it was time to sign for Paris St Germain. It was the right time to leave Barcelona and find new challenges.
“I was never motivated by money. I thought above all else about of the happiness of my family, regardless of money. I regret that some people think this is the case.”
Among the challenges he has signed up for at the Parc des Princes this term will be PSG’s quest to reclaim the Ligue 1 title from Monaco, who in May denied the Parisians a fifth straight championship.
That mission starts at home to newly-promoted Amiens on Saturday afternoon and Neymar is keen to get started.
Bienvenue en ton nouveau jardin ? pic.twitter.com/tte5CuTRcK
— PSG Officiel (@PSG_inside) August 4, 2017
“I’m ready,” he told reporters. “If I can play tomorrow, why not?
“I will speak with the staff and wait for the green light, but this is what I love to do – play football.”
When asked if he feels the burden of becoming the most valuable player of all time, surpassing Paul Pogba following his 105m euro (£89m) move to Manchester United last summer, Neymar cracked a joke.
He said: “It’s not an extra burden. I weigh 69kg, and I’ll remain at 69kg. ”
For PSG owner Al-Khelaifi there were no second thoughts when it came to launching an historic bid for the striker who excelled alongside Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez – forming the ‘MSN’ strike force – for four years at Barcelona.
— PSG Officiel (@PSG_inside) August 4, 2017
“For me Neymar is the best player in the world, so we wanted to have the best player in the world,” he said.
“Neymar came here to write new pages in the history of Paris St Germain.
“With him our project will grow even stronger. The league will become more interesting for everyone.
“More transfers? The best player in the world is here. Let’s enjoy Neymar.”
When asked about the unprecedented transfer fee received by Barcelona, Al-Khelaifi added: “Today, it might seem expensive. But in two years’ time it might not anymore.
“We will make money together in the coming years as it is a two-brand project. For me it’s a fantastic transfer.
“Concerning Financial Fair Play, we have always been transparent.”
When rumours of the big-money move began emerging in France and Spain, Neymar managed to keep his counsel while he played dutifully for Barca on their pre-season tour of the United States.
Only weeks before the switch went through Barca defender Gerard Pique posted a picture of himself with Neymar on Instagram with the caption: “Se queda” – meaning “he stays.”
Neymar, who will play alongside fellow Brazilians Dani Alves and Thiago Silva at PSG, said of the Pique incident: “He published the picture but I’d asked him not to. I had not yet made my decision.
“He wanted to express his feelings and I respect him, he’s a great friend. The first person I told I was leaving was the Barca coach (Ernesto Valverde). He was the most important person to tell.”
Al-Khelaifi added: “I want to add that during the process of contract negotiations, Neymar was trying to slow things down to show respect to his fans and his team-mates, so he could leave with his head held high.
“He acted like a gentleman. When you compare that to how other players might have acted, he did very well.”
PSG, purchased by their current Qatari owners in 2011, have thus far failed to progress past the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
From pain the Parisians have clearly drawn inspiration as Neymar was the driving force behind Barcelona’s remarkable comeback against PSG in the competition’s last eight in March.
He scored twice and set up the winner as the Catalans remarkably won 6-1 to overturn a 4-0 first-leg deficit.
Barcelona, meanwhile, have passed details of the deal to UEFA so the governing body might “determine the disciplinary responsibilities” concerning issues of Financial Fair Play and adherence to European transfer rules.