SHANGHAI, China, Jul 31 – Neymar hit the red carpet in Shanghai on Monday as speculation mounted that the Brazil star could be set to quit Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain for a world-record Sh 27.2b (222m euros).
The 25-year-old striker is at the centre of an apparent tug of war between the two European giants in what would be the most expensive transfer fee in football history.
A training spat with new Barcelona signing Nelson Semedo during a pre-season tour in Miami ramped up chatter that Neymar could be about to swap Spain for the French capital.
Neymar, who has remained tight-lipped about the transfer rumours, posted a message for Chinese fans on Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter, after arriving for a promotional visit.
“Ni Hao China! I’m Neymar Jr. and I’ve just arrived in China,” he wrote.
“I’m in Shanghai at the moment. I would like to send a huge hug to all my Chinese fans, thank you very much for your support.”
He later posed for a scrum of photographers and television journalists and answered questions about fashion, before attending an evening event for a clothing brand.
Neymar also posted on Weibo a picture of himself with fellow Brazilian forward Hulk, who plays in the Chinese Super League for Shanghai SIPG.
Even following the training-ground bust-up in the United States, after which Neymar appeared to storm off, his Barcelona team-mates said they wanted him to stay at the Camp Nou.
“Neymar and I, we are very close and I want him to stay and I know the situation,” defender Gerard Pique told ESPN FC.
“Right now he doesn’t know what to do and we are trying to help him — the ones (on the team) that are more close to him — to take the right decision.”
PSG’s pursuit of Neymar has angered some in Spain, where football league chief Javier Tebas says he will file a complaint with UEFA for financial fair play breaches by the French club.