By DAN KARELL
After years of promises to leave Brazil after the 2014 World Cup, Neymar has changed his mind and will be heading to Europe a year earlier than expected.
The Santos FC forward inked a five-year contract with Spain giants FC Barcelona on Monday, two days after officially deciding that the Catalan coastal city would be his next destination. Neymar played in his final match for Santos on Sunday, playing Flamengo to a scoreless draw.
The reported $38.7 million dollar transfer ends a nearly four-year race to sign the 21-year-old Brazilian international by many of the world’s biggest clubs, with Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, and eventual winners Barcelona competing at the end for Neymar’s signature.
Neymar’s rise to prominence truly began in 2010, his second season as a professional with Santos. Still just 18 years of age at the time, Neymar led his side to a Paulista state championship and a Brazilian cup title, the first of his many accomplishments, including two more state titles and a Copa Libertadores crown in 2011. In addition, Neymar racked up an impressive 138 goals in 230 matches at Santos, the most goals at the club since Pelé retired in 1977.
Neymar will join up with the Brazil squad on Tuesday for a training camp ahead of two friendlies against England and France before hosting the Confederations Cup from June 15-30. Following the tournament, Neymar will join Barcelona ahead of their 2013-2014 La Liga campaign.
Here are some more stories to get your Tuesday started:
CRYSTAL PALACE RETURNS TO PREMIER LEAGUE
In the world’s richest game, Crystal Palace defeated Watford, 1-0 after extra time, in the Championship playoff finals to earn a place in next season’s English Premier League.
Palace forward Kevin Phillips, 39-years-old, scored the game’s only goal in the 105th minute from the penalty spot, after Manchester United signing Wilfried Zaha was taken down in the box.
The win for Palace was worth more than $181 million according to reports, based on the television revenue, sponsorships, and other marketing advantages of being in England’s top league. It’s the fourth time that Palace has been promoted into the Premier League, though they had extended stays in the old First Division in the early 1970′s and 1990′s.
Ian Holloway’s side now will return to the Premier League for the first time since 2004-2005.
FALCAO PASSES MEDICAL, WILL SIGN AT MONACO
With the dust finally settling, promoted Ligue 2 side AS Monaco is quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with next season.
Atletico Madrid forward Radamel Falcao Garcia spent the day in Monaco, taking a physical ahead of a $77.5 million dollar move to the club, according to reports out of Spain. Falcao is believed to be signing a five-year contract with the French league club, earning upwards of $13 million per season after taxes. The contract does reportedly have a clause that would allow Falcao to leave at a lower price next summer.
Long-believed to be a target for city rivals Real Madrid, Barcelona, or even more recently in the prior few months Chelsea and Manchester City in England, it’s the Russian backed ownership of AS Monaco that has secured their third major signing in a week. AS Monaco last Friday signed FC Porto midfielders James Rodriguez and Joao Moutinho for a combined $90.5 million.
If not for two men named Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo also playing in Spain, Falcao might have been the most sought-out forward in the world. In two seasons at Atletico, the Colombian international scored an incredible 52 goals in 67 La Liga matches.
BENITEZ TAKES CHARGE OF NAPOLI
Just days after guiding Chelsea to a Europa League title and a third-place finish in the English Premier League, Rafael Benitez waved goodbye to his tumultuous time in London to take the open managerial position at S.S.C. Napoli.
Napoli’s President Aurelio de Laurentiis confirmed the hire on Monday, sending out a picture on Twitter of the de Laurentiis shaking hands with Benitez. The club later confirmed the news on their website, reportedly signing the 53-year-old boss on a two-year-contract.
The Spanish manager takes over a side that finished second in Italy and will be in the Champions League, though there are doubts as to whether star forward Edinson Cavani will remain at the club through next season. With the recent Europa League title, Benitez has now won ten trophies in his during his career, starting with Valencia, Liverpool, Inter Milan, and Chelsea.
Benitez will make a quick return to London in early August to take part in Arsenal’s Emirates Cup.
The FA named their final squad for the upcoming U20 World Cup in Turkey (REPORT)
Wigan manager Roberto Martinez has resigned from his position at the club, with his next destination likely to be Goodison Park. (REPORT)
Greek central defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos has signed a five-year contract at Borussia Dortmund, replacing Felipe Santana who left for FC Schalke. (REPORT)
Argentine goalkeeper Pablo Migliore, recently released from prison, is set to join Dynamo Zagreb in Croatia. (REPORT)
Brighton & Hove Albion manager Gus Poyet has been linked with the open managerial position at Israel champions Maccabi Tel Aviv. (REPORT)
What do you make of these reports? Glad the Neymar transfer-saga is done? Do you see him playing well alongside Messi? Do you see Palace staying up next season? Do you like the Falcao move to Monaco?
Share your thoughts below.