Lionel Messi has told ESPN he was in the dark right up until the very last moment over Neymar’s decision to leave Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain.
Gerard Pique and Xavi Hernandez have both revealed that they found out the Brazilian was off to France while they were at Messi’s wedding to long-term partner Antonela Roccuzzo at the end of June in Rosario, Argentina.
However, despite being briefed on the options Neymar had on the table, Messi says it was much later when he actually learned the deal was going to take place.
“Honestly, no,” he told ESPN’s Diego Monroig when asked if he was aware during his wedding that Neymar had plans to join PSG.
“Until the last day of the tour [of the United States] we were talking and we didn’t know anything. He said that he still wasn’t clear what to do and he didn’t know what he was doing. Others said they knew. But right until the last minute, we were speaking to him.”
Speaking to the BBC last month, Xavi said Neymar “told us at Messi’s wedding that he wanted to change, he wanted to change the club.
“I asked him, ‘but why?’ He said: ‘I’m not happy in Barcelona and I prefer to go out, to have a new experience in Europe, in Paris Saint-German.’ And finally, that was his decision. We must respect it.”
Luis Suarez has also said that he and Messi tried to convince Neymar to remain at Camp Nou right up until the last possible moment, although without putting too much pressure on him.
“We never said, ‘Don’t go because you won’t be happy,'” he told Diario Sport on Wednesday. “We said, we didn’t want him to go, but that he was free to do what he wanted. Because of the friendship we have, it was painful that he left.”
PSG paid Neymar’s €222 million buyout clause in August to take him to France, where he is now teammates with Angel Di Maria, who also plays alongside Messi for Argentina.
Samuel Marsden covers Barcelona for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @SamuelMarsden.