Barcelona confirm Neymar set to sign

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Brazilian star striker Neymar will sign for Barcelona, the Spanish champions have confirmed, bringing two years of intense speculation and worldwide fascination to a close.

The deal was confirmed in the early hours of Sunday morning after the playmaker decided to join Tito Vilanova's squad on a five-year contract.

Barcelona had an estimated £24 million bid for the Selecao starlet accepted by Santos on Friday - despite fierce rivals Real Madrid allegedly offering a greater sum - and will pay Neymar a further £6m a year in wages.

Rumours that the deal had been completed emerged on Saturday night - in the shadow of the Champions League final, with the Primera Liga champions and four-time European champions already focusing on next season and Lisbon 2014.

Rumours of the 21-year-old's transfer plunged the online world into a frenzy when it was revealed that his current club Santos had accepted offers from Barca and Real Madrid - one newspaper even offered live updates of the negotiations.

A statement on the Brazilian club's website read: "Santos FC announces that it has received two proposals for the athlete Neymar da Silva Santos Junior. Given the offers and conditions of the player's contract, the club decided to transfer the player."

But it appears Neymar has decided to honour his gentleman's agreement with the Catalan giants, which is believed to originate from talks 12 months ago, and will join the squad after the upcoming Confederations Cup.

Likened to Pele and linking up with Lionel Messi, South America's latest footballing prodigy finds his career curiously intertwined with many of the illustrious players who made his sport a truly beautiful game.

The youngster joins Romario, Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho in the elite band of highly talented Brazilians to wear the blue and scarlet shirt at the Nou Camp, representing arguably the greatest team in world football.

Neymar becomes the latest graduate of the prestigious Santos academy to move abroad, seemingly finding the lure of European football too great, as the player previously had a contract lasting until after next year's World Cup.

Yet the attacker leaves his homeland as a worthy patron; a champion of Latin American football. Neymar's pace, dribbling, razor-sharp finishing and impeccable technique makes him the epitome of Brazilian flair and ability.

He has won everything his nation has to offer: the Copa do Brasil, the Copa Libertadores, the Recopa Sudamericana and three league titles since 2010, scoring 54 goals in 102 matches at the Estadio Vila Belmiro ground.

It is, therefore, no wonder that Neymar has attracted interest from almost all of Europe's major clubs during his rise to stardom - including Chelsea and Real - but, now the haggling is over, his feet will surely do the talking.

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