Spain's top football league has attempted to block what appears to be the imminent transfer of Barcelona star Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain. If completed, the transfer would be the most expensive in football history.
A spokesperson for La Liga confirmed to reporters on Thursday that league officials had refused to accept the payment of Neymar's 222-million-euro ($260 million) buyout clause that would pave the way for the Brazilian star to move from Barcelona to Ligue 1 club Paris Saint-Germain (PSG).
"We can confirm that the legal representatives of the player attended La Liga to pay the clause and this has been rejected," the spokesperson told the AFP news agency.
League President, Javier Tebas, had already warned in an interview earlier this week that La Liga would not accept a payment to trigger the release clause, saying it was potentially in breach of the Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules set out by the European governing body, UEFA. Under FFP, a club's wage bill must not exceed 70 percent of its revenue.
It wasn't immediately clear whether the move could scupper Neymar's planned moved from Barcelona to the French capital, or to what extent it could delay it.
Spainish sports daily "Marca" paper reported that Neymar and his advisers would likely now turn to FIFA, football's world governing body, to request a provisional transfer to PSG.
Exempted from training with Barca
The latest development comes a day after Neymar attended a morning training session at Barca to say his goodbyes to his (still) teammates. Later, he boarded a private jet to Porto, where he was reportedly to undergo a medical ahead of his move to PSG.
Earlier on Wednesday, Barcelona acknowledged for the first time that the 25-year-old attacker had asked to leave.
"NeymarJr, accompanied by his father and representative, has informed FC Barcelona this morning of his decision to leave the club, at a meeting held in the club offices," a statement released by the club said. "The player still has a valid contract with FC Barcelona, but has temporary permission not to participate in the training sessions."
The money changing hands in the deal would shatter the previous transfer record, the reported 105 million euros that Manchester United paid Juventus for Paul Pogba last summer.