PARIS (AFP) – French club Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) said they would take “appropriate action” after Neymar failed to show up for pre-season training with the French champions.
Neymar, the world’s most expensive player after moving to PSG for EUR222 million (USD252 million) two years ago, had watched his country win the Copa America in Rio de Janeiro last Sunday night.
But when PSG players including France World Cup-winning striker Kylian Mbappe reported back for training and pre-season medical checks in the French capital on Monday, Neymar was nowhere to be seen.
PSG said in a statement, “On Monday 8 July Neymar da Silva Santos Junior was due to return to pre-season activities with the PSG senior squad.
“PSG notes that Neymar Jr was not in attendance at the agreed time and place. This was without the club’s prior authorisation.
“The club regrets this situation and will therefore take appropriate action.”
Brazilian media quoted Neymar’s father as saying that PSG “were aware” the striker would be unable to return to the club for another week.
“The reason was known and planned for a year as part of his activities for the Neymar Institute (charity foundation),” said Neymar Senior.
He added, “We couldn’t postpone them and he will return (to PSG) on July 15.
“It’s as simple as that, no drama. PSG are aware and take part in the Institute’s activities.”
Neymar is undergoing treatment on the torn ankle ligaments that ruled him out of the Copa America.
His absence is likely to fuel rumours that he could make a surprise move back to Barcelona, the club he left to join PSG, this summer.
French media noted that what was striking was PSG’s lack of tolerance of Neymar’s behaviour.
After they club said it would take action, PSG’s newly installed Brazilian Sporting Director Leonardo told Le Parisien newspaper that “Neymar can leave PSG if there is an offer that suits everybody.”
Sports daily L’Equipe’s headline was “With Leo (Leonardo), there’s no longer any joking around.”
Barcelona, currently embroiled in efforts to sign Antoine Griezmann, have yet to publicly express an interest in Neymar.
Barca’s Vice-President Jordi Cardoner said last week, “What is correct, at the current time, what I have read, what I have heard, which seems exact, is that Neymar wants to come back to Barcelona.”
Spanish sports newspaper Diario Sport claims a five-year contract has been agreed with Neymar agreeing to a cut in salary from around EUR36 million a year at PSG to the EUR24 million he received at Barca in 2017.
In four years at Barcelona, the 27-year-old won the Champions League in 2015 and two La Liga titles, forming a brilliant attacking trio with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.
Any return for Neymar would likely require Barca to raise funds through sales. Frenkie de Jong has already signed for EUR75 million from Ajax. Griezmann is expected to join from Atletico Madrid for EUR120 million, although that deal has hit snags. Last Sunday, Griezmann failed to show up for pre-season at Atletico and the Spanish club, like PSG, threatened to punish their star striker.
PSG President Nasser Al-Khelaifi has warned Neymar and his other highly-paid stars that they must shape-up or ship out, claiming “celebrity behaviour” at the French champions will not be tolerated.
“The players will have to assume their responsibilities even more than before,” Al-Khelaifi told France Football.