PARIS (Reuters) – Delirious Paris St Germain fans got their first glimpse of world-record signing Neymar on Saturday although he was restricted to some pre-match ball juggling after being forced to sit out the Ligue 1 opener.
The Brazilian, whose 222 million euros ($261.32 million) signing from Barcelona doubled the world-record transfer fee, was prevented from making his debut against Amiens as his registration had gone through too late.
The issue failed to spoil the party mood in the Parc des Princes however, with Neymar’s appearance for a presentation before kickoff prompting huge cheers from the crowd.
Fireworks greeted Neymar’s appearance from the tunnel an hour ahead of the scheduled 1515GMT kickoff before he stood on a podium to address the crowd who chanted his name.
“Merci,” Neymar said, before adding via an interpreter that “my intention is to win many trophies with you.”
Neymar, who was joined by PSG’s CEO Nasser Al-Khelaifi, then paraded around the pitch, showing his ball-juggling skills and ending up bare-chested after throwing his shirt into the crowd.
The stadium opened its doors early for the event, which also included French DJ Martin Solveig entertaining supporters, well ahead of kickoff against newly promoted Amiens.
Neymar, 25, joined on a five-year contract from Barcelona on Thursday after PSG met the cost of the buyout clause in his contract. PSG believe he will help them challenge for this year’s Champions League title.
He joins fellow Brazilian and former Barcelona team mate Dani Alves in the French capital after he joined from Juventus.
Neymar had said at a media presentation on Friday that he hoped to take part in PSG’s opening league match, although PSG did not need him, winning easily enough 2-0.
PSG, runners-up to Monaco last season after four successive titles, failed to meet a midnight deadline for a transfer certificate to be submitted to France’s professional football league, the LFP, from Spain’s football authorities, an LFP spokeswoman said on Saturday.
Saturday’s ceremony fueled a marketing blitz by PSG, who on Friday sold 10,000 replica shirts printed with Neymar’s name and registered 500,000 euros in merchandise sales, according to news channel BFM TV.
Al-Khelaifi told reporters on Friday that the value of the club had risen by half a billion dollars since the signing of Neymar who will earn a salary of 45 million euro.
The excitement of the Brazilian star’s arrival in Paris has spread to supporters of other clubs.
Tickets for PSG’s first away match, at Guingamp next weekend, have already sold out and fans in Brittany may be rewarded by seeing Neymar make his debut for PSG.
Neymar’s arrival has raised hopes in France that Ligue 1’s profile will be boosted, although PSG’s Qatari owners have also drawn criticism for potentially undermining Financial Fair Play rules covering European clubs.
($1 = 0.8495 euros)
(Reporting by Gus Trompiz; Additional reporting by Martyn Herman in London and Sam Edwards in Madrid; Editing by Nick Mulvenney and Neil Robinson)