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30.08.2020 Football News

Puma ready to pounce as Nike nix Neymar's 100 million euro deal

By Michael Fitzpatrick - RFI
POOL/AFP/File
LISTEN AUG 30, 2020
POOL/AFP/File

Sports equipment manufacturer Nike has parted ways with Neymar, ending one of the company's highest-profile sponsorship deals a decade and a half after signing the star striker as a 13-year-old prodigy.

"I can confirm Neymar is no longer a Nike athlete," a spokesman for the US sportswear giant announced, without giving details.

Media reports said the 28-year-old Paris Saint-Germain and Brazil talisman was in talks with Nike's German rival Puma.

"We generally do not comment on rumors," a spokesman for Puma in Germany responded.

Brazilian news site UOL said Neymar and Nike had failed to reach a deal on how much money he would be paid for renewing his contract.

It said negotiations between the company and the footballer's agents had run into trouble months ago.

Neymar's communications team did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Puma likewise did not immediately respond to questions about reports the company was in talks to sign him.

Brazilian newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo said Neymar's last deal with Nike was an 11-year contract that is set to expire in 2022, worth a total 100 million euros.

Most expensive football transfer ever

Neymar, who is fresh off the heartbreak of narrowly losing the Champions League final to Bayern Munich, holds the record for the most expensive football transfer in history.

Paris Saint-Germain paid 222 million euros to bring him from Barcelona in 2017.

Forbes magazine, which ranks him the world's seventh highest-paid celebrity, estimates his earnings for this year at more than 85 million euros, including endorsement deals.

Neymar signed his first deal with Nike as a youth standout at Brazilian side Santos, which sold him to Barcelona in 2013.

With his skinny good looks, tattoos, ever-changing hairstyles and huge following on social media, the player soon exploded onto the international scene, dazzling the football world with the skills he honed playing five-a-side "futsal" on the streets of suburban Sao Paulo.

Tarnished by rape, tax fraud allegations

But his image, already blemished by tax fraud allegations over his murky transfer to Barca, was badly dented last year when a Brazilian woman accused him of raping her.

Nike expressed its "deep concern" at the time, but stood by the player after police closed the case, citing a lack of evidence.

Neymar will still wear Nike apparel on the pitch: the company sponsors both PSG and the Brazilian national team.

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