FCB expects Sunday to be the last game of Neymar with Santos. He will become a Barcelona player. Messi playing with Neymar from next season!— Guillem Balague (@GuillemBalague) May 25, 2013
UPDATE: Saturday, May 25, at 10:30 p.m. ET by Ian Hanford
ESPN provided Barcelona's statement concerning Neymar's arrival:
FC Barcelona and Santos have agreed to terms for Neymar da Silva Santos Junior. The Brazilian forward will don the Blaugrana strip for the next five seasons. The 21-year old is one of the most promising footballers on the planet.
Neymar also offered this statement on his Instagram account (via ESPN):
I'm here with friends and family and they have helped me to write a few things here. I'm not going to hold out until Monday. My family and friends already know my decision. On Monday I will sign a contract with Barcelona.
I want to thank the fans of Santos for these incredible nine years. My feeling for the club and the fans will never change. It is eternal!
Only a club like Santos FC could give me everything I have experienced on and off the field. I thank the wonderful fans who supported me even in the most difficult moments.
Titles, goals, dribbling, celebrations and songs that fans created for me will be forever in my heart...
---End of update---
UPDATE: Saturday, May 25, at 9:20 p.m. ET by Ian Hanford
FC Barcelona announced on Twitter that it's officially added Neymar to its roster on Saturday:
FC Barcelona have reached an agreement with Santos for Neymar. The Brazilian player will join FC Barcelona for the next five seasons.— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) May 26, 2013
---End of update---
According to ESPN's Mac Bretos, the supremely talented rising star from Brazil is reportedly being sent to Barca after Santos agreed to a €30 million price with the Spanish club.
Sounds like Barcelona have finally agreed on a price for Neymar. I read 30 million euros... More to come....— Max Bretos (@mbretosESPN) May 24, 2013
Santos will have to find an amenable contract with Barcelona before the transfer gets completed.
Until now, Neymar had spent his entire career with Santos in his home country. The original plan was for him to remain with the club through the 2014 World Cup, but plans clearly changed and now he'll test his talents with Barcelona.
The 21-year-old striker has already showcased immense attacking ability. A combination of pace, creativity and a terrific finishing touch have made him an extremely coveted commodity for years. These attributes should eventually allow him to rival any forward in the world.
Making the move now, before next year's World Cup showcase in Brazil, was the right decision. He had nothing left to prove with Santos, where he honed his skills for four years. He was prepared to make the jump without waiting until next summer.
What do you think of the Neymar deal?
Although Neymar was already gaining worldwide attention, it isn't until he proves himself against elite competition that he'll truly earn his place among the world's best players. Santos wasn't going to provide that opportunity for him.
Joining a bigger club will also allow his stock to rise ahead of the World Cup. He's expected to take center stage as Brazil attempts to return to the forefront of the football world on home soil. It's a role that includes a massive amount of pressure.
Now, he'll get a taste of that next season with his new club. He's ready for the challenge. There might be a brief transition period, but it's only a matter of time before he'll make an impact.
The other aspect to consider is the potential for Neymar to become the face of the club for a long time. SportsPro rated him as the world's most marketable athlete, and the World Cup in Brazil should only further build his individual brand.
While it's probably not something most fans consider, that marketability is something clubs must take into account before making a large investment in a player like Neymar. The fact he could attract so much positive attention for the club limits the risk of signing him.
Now that the transfer drama is over, the Brazilian can focus on proving himself to the remaining skeptics. He has a golden opportunity to do exactly that between now and next summer.
By the end of next year's World Cup, Neymar's place on the global football stage should be a lot clearer.