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Neymar freed from Barcelona with record $262 million buyout

Barcelona's Neymar shouts during the Champions League quarterfinal

Barcelona's Neymar shouts during the Champions League quarterfinal second leg soccer match between Barcelona and Juventus at Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Wednesday, April 19, 2017. Credit: AP / Emilio Morenatti

BARCELONA, Spain — Neymar has broken with Barcelona. And all it cost for his freedom to join Paris Saint-Germain was the eye-popping sum of $262 million.

Representatives of the Brazilian striker triggered the release clause in his contract Thursday when they went to Barcelona’s club offices and made a payment in his name of 222 million euros.

The payment for a single player shattered the world record for soccer transfers, dwarfing the 105 million euros (then $116 million) that Manchester United shelled out last year for midfielder Paul Pogba.

There was no immediate confirmation of a transfer by PSG. But Neymar’s representative Wagner Ribeiro had said Wednesday that PSG was willing to pay the fee.

Barcelona said in a statement that “Neymar Jr.’s legal representatives visited in person the club’s offices and made the payment of 222 million euros in the player’s name with regards to the unilateral termination of the contract that united both parties.”

It was the climax to a summer-long saga that has pursued Neymar around the world — through Barcelona’s preseason matches in the United States and his publicity tour in China.

For Barcelona, the 25-year-old’s departure is a huge blow to its present and future. With stars Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Andres Iniesta all over 30, Neymar was meant to lead the club for years to come.

Neymar scored 105 goals playing alongside Messi and was a key playmaker for Barcelona as it won a Champions League, two Spanish leagues, three Copa del Reys, one Club World Cup, a UEFA Super Cup and two Spanish Super Cups.

The expectation is for Neymar to lead PSG to elusive Champions League success so desired by the club’s Qatari owners.

Barcelona also said in its statement that “the club will pass on to UEFA the details of the above operation so that they can determine the disciplinary responsibilities that may arise from this case.”

The comment follows a claim Wednesday by Spanish league president Javier Tebas that Neymar’s move would break Financial Fair Play rules introduced by UEFA, European soccer’s ruling body.

Barcelona did all it could to stop Neymar from leaving. It had vowed to complain to UEFA if his seemingly untouchable release clause was triggered.

The payment of the clause directly to the club was the second attempt Neymar’s representatives had made Thursday to break his bond with Barcelona.

Earlier in the day, his lawyer Juan de Dios Crespo had tried to deposit 222 million euros at the Spanish league’s offices in Madrid, but he was turned away.

Tebas had told Spanish sports daily AS that he wouldn’t let the Spanish league act as an intermediary to an operation that he, like Barcelona, believed violated UEFA’s FFP rules. He had called PSG a “state-supported club.” The club’s owners are closely linked to Qatar’s energy-rich ruling family.

But UEFA’s rules, which are aimed at limiting spending by clubs, will not disrupt Neymar’s move to PSG. Any possible consequences for PSG, such as fines or being banned from the Champions League, will come further down the line when it eventually has to show that Neymar’s transfer was funded without incurring losses.

Neymar ended weeks of silence Wednesday by telling Barcelona’s executives, players and coach that his intention was to leave the club after four seasons.

Barcelona spokesman Josep Vives responded that the club would not negotiate and would demand the full payment of the clause. Last year, Neymar signed a new contract with Barcelona that tied him to the Catalan club through 2021.

In France, Neymar’s move was seen as a done deal.

Having met PSG president Nasser Al-Khalaifi at a charity event, French President Emmanuel Macron took the opportunity to say: “Congratulations, I understand there’s been some good news.”

However, Lyon club president Jean-Michel Aulas launched a barb at his big-spending rival in a message on Twitter: “Congrats to Nasser for the realization of this worldwide unique operation: I’m impatient to know about the real costs of the operation.”

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