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Neymar/Facebook

Neymar da Silva Santos Junior

It’s official: Brazilian football star Neymar is leaving FC Barcelona for Qatar-backed Paris St. Germain (PSG).

The 25-year-old signed a five-year deal through June 2022 with the French club yesterday.

Before doing so, his lawyers paid a buyout clause fee of €222 million (QR966 million) to his former team.

That makes the deal the most expensive transfer in football history.

Signing Neymar is being seen as a big win for Qatar, which is embroiled in a months-long dispute with its neighbors.

Speaking to the Associated Press, Gulf expert Christopher Davidson said:

“This signing can demonstrate that Qatar is still viable, still able to have international influence and still able to be serious player in international soccer.”

Winning

But the transfer isn’t without obstacles. There are concerns that PSG is over-stepping UEFA rules about spending more than it earns.

The organization, which governs European football, will be looking into the financial implications in the coming years.

But in the meantime, Neymar and PSG said they are just focusing on the game of football and winning tournaments.

In a statement, PSG President Nasser Al-Khelaifi said:

“It is with immense joy and pride that we welcome Neymar Jr. to Paris Saint-Germain. Neymar Jr. is today one of the very best players in world football. His winning mentality, strength of character and sense of leadership have made him into a great player. He will bring a very positive energy to this club.”

And in his farewell speech to Barca fans this week, Neymar explained that it was time to move on and seek “new challenges.”

According to ESPN, he said:

“I accepted PSG’s proposition to try new achievements and help the club to win the titles that their crowd wants. They showed me a daring career plan and I feel ready to take on this challenge.”

Thoughts?

Thousands of football fans gathered at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium in Al Sadd last night to witness the latest high-profile football friendly between Paris-Saint Germain (PSG) and Inter, which ended with the French team on top 1-0.

The only goal of the evening was scored right before halftime by Jean-Kevin Augustin, an 18-year-old who has only played for Qatar-owned PSG a handful of times before last night.

Though tickets to the match sold out earlier this week, the final tally of attendees was 11,628. The stadium’s official capacity is 12,946, according to organizers.

However, the mood was a festive one, with bundled-up fans sporting PSG and Inter merchandise to enjoy the friendly amid dropping temperatures.

Speaking to Doha News, Khalifa Saleh Al Haroon, Qatar Stars League’ executive director of communications, said:

“All in all, the match experience was great. We improved on way-finding, we did our best to improve on parking, we improved on food and beverage and restaurants available, we improved (the) sound system…and more importantly, everybody was safe.”

Night to remember

And unlike in previous years, there were few complaints about ticket-holders getting into the stadium.

Three large central security tents with metal detectors and x-ray machines could be observed processing the crowd. Meanwhile, vendors walked around, selling karak, snacks and club merchandise.

PSG Inter match

Ahmed Naazim/Flickr

PSG Inter match

According to Gulf Times, the match was played at a slow pace, as are most friendlies, to keep players from getting any injuries. But added that the evening was still one to remember:

“From the time the players walked onto the pitch (through an arch of fireworks and confetti), the fans were constantly enjoying themselves…

Just before the start of the match, the song Right Here, Right Now by Fatboy Slim was being blasted over the stadium speakers. And this was definitely a ‘I was there’ moment for the spectators.”

Did you watch the match? Thoughts?

Note: This story has been corrected to reflect that the capacity of the stadium is 12,946, not 15,000 fans.

Updated at 4:41pm to say match has been sold out and on Dec. 29 to add Inter arrival photos.

Two top European football clubs have arrived in Qatar to train for the upcoming season and face off in a friendly match this week.

Paris St. Germain (PSG) and Inter of Italy are both spending a portion of their winter breaks training at the Aspire Zone.

Real Madrid vs PSG game

Muhamad Kamaluddin/Twitter

Real Madrid vs PSG game

PSG, which is Qatar-owned, is returning to the country for the fourth time in five years for training.

This is Inter’s first time in Doha, and they arrived a few days before their competitors.

According to the Qatar Football Association:

“The (friendly) will serve as an important warm up for both teams, as both sides have gone into their winter break top of their respective domestic leagues. PSG have a commanding 19 point lead in Ligue 1. Inter Milan have a slender 1 point lead at the top of Serie A.”

Tickets are still on sale for the match are sold out. It will be held on Wednesday, Dec. 30 at 7:30pm at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium in Al Sadd.

Who’s going? Thoughts?