Barça’s Neymar bid booms market AFP

Barça’s Neymar bid booms market AFP

LONDON - Reuters
Barça’s Neymar bid booms market AFP

Neymar controls the ball during the 2013 Copa do Brasil football match against Joinville held at Vila Belmiro stadium.

Barcelona’s victory over bitter rivals Real Madrid in the race to sign Brazil forward Neymar will increase the pressure on Real president Florentino Perez to come up with a similarly high-profile acquisition.

The 21-year-old Neymar, seen as one of the brightest prospects in soccer, announced on Saturday he had picked Barca over Real and would be leaving Santos to sign a five-year deal with the Catalan club.

As well as a gifted athlete, Neymar is a massive global celebrity and linking up with Barca’s Argentine World Player of the Year Lionel Messi will guarantee spectacle on the pitch as well as a huge boost to the club’s marketing profile.

Barca recaptured their La Liga title from Real this season but fell in the semi-finals of the Champions League and Neymar will also help rejuvenate a squad in which leading figures like David Villa, Carles Puyol and Eric Abidal are nearing the end of their careers.

Real, by contrast, are in disarray after a season without major silverware that prompted the club and coach Jose Mourinho to agree to part ways.

Construction magnate Perez is up for reelection next month and while he looks for a replacement for Mourinho, Real’s members, who own the club and choose the president, will be expecting him to unveil a signing to match Neymar’s.

Reports in Spain have said Perez is targeting Tottenham Hotspur’s Wales winger Gareth Bale, and that Atletico Madrid’s Colombia striker Radamel Falcao and Malaga’s Spain playmaker Isco are also on his wish list.

The snaring of Bale, valued at 42 million euros ($54 million) on, or Falcao, valued at 60 million, would help ease the pain of a difficult season. It would also boost the fans’ hopes that Real, the world’s richest club by income and the nine-times continental champions, can return to the summit of the game. Real have spent more than 400 million euros on players since Perez returned to the presidency in 2009.