Neymar arrives in Paris promising glory for PSG
The world's most expensive footballer, Brazilian superstar Neymar, landed in the French capital Friday following his record transfer from Spanish giants Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain.
Fans swarmed a PSG outlet on the Champs Elysees to buy shirts with Neymar's name and number on the back as the 25-year-old forward headed for the city centre in a motorcade after arriving in a private jet shortly before 11am (0900 GMT) at Le Bourget airport north-east of Paris.
Neymar had flown in from Barcelona a day after completing a 222 million-euro ($264 million) move from the Spanish club and will earn a reported 30 million euros ($35.5 million) annually in a five-year deal.
"I am extremely happy to join Paris Saint-Germain," Neymar said late Thursday.
"Since I arrived in Europe, the club has always been one of the most competitive and most ambitious. And the biggest challenge, what most motivated me to join my new teammates is to help the club to conquer the titles that their fans want.
"Paris Saint-Germain's ambition attracted me to the club, along with the passion and the energy this brings. I played four seasons in Europe and I feel ready to take the challenge.
"From today, I will do everything I can to help my new teammates, to open up new horizons for my club and to bring happiness to its millions of supporters around the world."
Neymar will appear at a press conference at the PSG's Parc des Princes stadium at 1:30pm (1130 GMT).
He will then be presented to fans at the same ground at around 3:45pm on Saturday before the season-opening Ligue 1 fixture against promoted Amiens.
More than 1,000 fans showed up at the PSG store when shirts bearing his name went on sale Friday as the club wasted no time in cashing in on Neymar's commercial value.
Football legend Pele congratulated Neymar on his move, telling his successor in the famed Brazilian number 10 shirt: "Good luck for your new challenge".
"Paris is a beautiful city and one of my favourites in the world," three-time World Cup-winner Pele wrote on Twitter.
The transfer is more than double the previous world record set by Manchester United's capture of Paul Pogba from Juventus last year for 105 million euros, leaving many commentators aghast at the rampant inflation in football transfer fees.
Leading coaches such as Arsenal's Arsene Wenger and Manchester United's Jose Mourinho lamented that the move could cause even greater inflation in transfer fees and player wages.
- 'A state signing' -
However, in the French capital there is huge excitement at PSG having landed a star name to finally make them feared among European football's elite with even French president Emmanuel Macron enthused.
"It adds attractiveness. Yes, it's good news," said Macron.
"Paris at his feet", splashed Le Parisien as Neymar dominated the French front pages Friday.
"A king comes to Paris," crowed sports daily L'Equipe.
The mood is understandably more sombre in Barcelona where attention has turned to who the Catalans can sign to replace Neymar in the month before the transfer window closes.
Neymar's Brazilian international teammate Philippe Coutinho of Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund's Ousmane Dembele have both been linked.
There is also scepticism at the role played by PSG's owners Oryx Qatar Sports Investments (QSI) at a time of political crisis for the energy-rich state which has been boycotted by its Gulf neighbours in recent months and will play host to the World Cup in 2022.
Spanish newspaper El Mundo described the move as a "state signing."
Spain's La Liga initially refused to accept payment for Neymar's buyout clause in a bid to stall the move over allegations of transfer irregularities, but Neymar's ex-teammates wished him well.
"My friend I wish you the best in everything that comes!!!" Luis Suarez posted on Instagram alongside a picture of the two hugging.
"Also thank you for your support, for everything that I learned with you and for the unique moments that we spent together!!!! Keep like this and never change love you little bro."