Neymar: 'Barcelona will always be in my heart, but I need new challenges'
Neymar said "an athlete needs challenges" in his farewell address to Barcelona on Thursday, after completing a world-record move to Paris Saint-Germain.
In a video posted on his social media accounts, Neymar read off a statement in Portuguese in which he expressed his love for Barcelona -- both the club and the city -- but said he was ready for a new chapter in his career.
The statement had a special message for his teammate Lionel Messi, and also appeared to suggest that his father was against the move to PSG.
But Neymar, who moved from Santos in his native Brazil in 2013, looked back at his time at the Camp Nou with fondness.
"The life of an athlete is made by challenges. Some are given to us. Others are fruits of our own decisions to keep the light that illuminates our career, which is intense, but short," Neymar said.
"Barcelona was much more than a challenge, it was the dream of a child who play with those stars through the video game.
"I arrived at Catalonia when I was 21 years old, filled with challenges. I can still remember my first days in the club, sharing the changing room with idols like Messi, [Victor] Valdes, Xavi [Hernadez], [Andres] Iniesta, [Carles] Puyol, [Gerard] Pique, [Sergio] Busquets and many others.
"Waiting my turn to play in a club that's 'more than a club.' Barcelona is a nation that represents Catalonia."
Neymar also singled out Messi, saying he was honoured to play alongside a footballer of his stature.
"I had the honour of playing with the best athlete I've ever seen in my life and I'm sure that I will never see another one like him while I'm alive. Leo Messi became my friend in and out of the pitch. It was an honour to play with you," Neymar said.
"I made a trio with Messi and Suarez that made history. Conquered everything an athlete can conquer. Lived unforgettable moments! Lived in a city that's more than a city, it's a homeland.
"I love Barcelona and I love Catalonia. But an athlete (me) needs challenges."
Neymar's statement then took a curious turn as he implied that his move to Barcelona against the opinion of his father -- a man who, while acting as his son's agent, largely executed the move to PSG.
He continued: "And for the second time in my life, I'll contradict my father. Father, I understand and respect your opinion, but my decision is made and I ask you to support me as you always do. 'So, go with God and be happy, OK son. But run! Kiss, I'm running up here with you.'"
The 25-year-old concluded by saying the decision was not easy, but that PSG conviced him to move with a "daring career plan."
"Barcelona and Catalonia will always be in my heart, but I need new challenges," he said. "I accepted PSG's proposition to try new achievements and help the club to win the titles that their crowd wants. They showed me a daring career plan and I feel ready to take on this challenge.
"I thank the wonderful Blaugrana crowd and everything learned with the great athletes that I had the chance to share the dressing room.
"Now I feel in my heart that it's time to leave. PSG will be my home for the next years and I will work hard to honor all of the trust placed in my football.
"I'm counting on the support of all of you who's been with me since 2009. Fans, friends, professionals who are with me and my family, who suffered a lot with some problems that took place during that period in my career. Today you deserve peace.
"It's a very hard decision, but I made it with the maturity I accumulated throughout those 25 years. Barcelona, thank you for everything. Paris, I'm here! May God bless and protect us."
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