Santos chief makes Neymar-Chelsea revelation
Brazilian sensation Neymar was "almost certain" to join Chelsea before inking a new deal to stay with Santos, the club's president has revealed.
Neymar, 2o, is the hottest property in world football after starring for both club and country in recent seasons and has been linked with a host of clubs, including Chelsea and Barcelona.
With 121 goals to his name in just 199 games for Santos, it is little wonder Neymar is being courted by Europe's elite.
Chelsea failed with a £32million bid for the Brazilian back in 2010, according to the player's agent Wagner Ribeiro, and Santos president Luis Alvaro de Oliveira Ribeiro admits a move to Stamford Bridge was close to being a done deal.
"When I met the lawyers and his agent, it was almost certain he would be sold to Chelsea but I left an empty seat in the meeting," he told ESPN Brasil.
"I said that the last one that sat there was Ayrton Senna, the last Brazilian idol. And that Neymar could be the next one."
Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini recently admitted his admiration for the player, although it has long been mooted that Neymar will join Barcelona after the 2014 World Cup.
A mysterious line in Barca’s annual report last month has fuelled speculation an agreement is already in place for the club to sign Neymar for €40million (Dh190m) after the finals in Brazil.
The line in their report simply stated: “On June 30 2012, the club agreed a long-term firm purchase amounting to €40m. In connection with this agreement, the club has already paid the amount of €10m.”
No explanation or embellishment was provided, but the most obvious conclusion – and the one that most fans and media immediately leapt to – is that the statement refers to a down-payment already made by Barcelona to Santos, with the fee eventually rising to €40m.
Neymar has since denied claims he is bound for the Camp Nou, with Santos' chief Ribeiro hopeful the player could decide to extend his stay at the club he helped to Copa Libertadores glory in 2011.
"Nowadays Neymar sits there and he needs to stay happy in the place where he is happy. I believe he will stay even beyond 2014," added Ribeiro.