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Neymars debut in French league delayed again
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PARIS (AP) — It’s been nearly a week since Neymar landed in Paris, and the world’s most expensive player still can’t play for his new club in the French league.

Neymar’s world-record 222 million euros ($262 million) transfer from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain was completed last week, but the Brazil international has yet to be granted permission to play.

PSG wanted Neymar to start the season last week at the Parc des Princes against Amiens but his debut was delayed because his international transfer certificate (ITC) had not been received by the French league on time.

Neymar was unveiled to the PSG fans on Saturday, but was allowed only to watch from the stands as his new team started its league campaign with a 2-0 win.

He was then expected to play this Sunday at Guingamp.

But the French league said in a message to The Associated Press that it had not received the ITC from the Spanish federation by the midnight local time deadline on Thursday.

The French league sent an application for the document last Thursday, following the payment of the player’s release clause to Barcelona.

The league, however, said Neymar could still be qualified for Sunday’s game if PSG and the French federation decide against referring the issue to FIFA.

“If the French federation does not start proceedings with FIFA, we could still receive the ITC up until Saturday night,” the league said.

According to French newspaper L’Equipe, PSG is unlikely to ask FIFA to rule on the issue because it could slow down proceedings further.

FIFA told the AP it “has not been contacted by the FFF (French Football Federation) in connection with the player Neymar and the ITC procedure.”

The French league added it “does not understand” why its Spanish counterpart “refuses to accept the payment for the buyout clause for Neymar.”

Barcelona said there is nothing strange about the situation and that the wait is due to the banks, which have to make the 222 million euros available in the club’s account before the transfer is authorized.

There has been speculation in France that Barcelona slowed down the whole process as a retaliation measure against PSG after the French league club lured one of its three biggest stars out of the Camp Nou.

Asked about his views on the issue after the Amiens game, PSG coach Unai Emery said last week he was not sure “Spain did everything” to ensure Neymar would be cleared to play for PSG in time.

FFF president Noel Le Graet said another reason for the delay could be the turmoil within the Spanish federation. Angel Maria Villar, who ran Spanish soccer since 1988, was suspended last month from the presidency for one year by Spain’s top sports authority for his suspected involvement in corruption.

“I don’t need to tell you that the Spanish federation is having some problems at the moment,” Le Graet told L’Equipe. “The transfer is complete, so this should not last.”

In any case, the paperwork issues have left Neymar unfazed. He has making the most of his time off to head to Saint-Tropez, where he has been photographed partying with friends. Neymar has since returned to training with his teammates.


Joe Wilson, in Barcelona, Spain, and AP Global Soccer Writer Rob Harris in London contributed.