'Nobody thought Neymar would leave' - €222m deal came as a surprise to Barca icon

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The World Cup winner says a record-breaking transfer to Paris Saint-Germain for the Brazilian forward came as a surprise to everybody at Camp Nou

Former Barcelona star Xavi says nobody expected Neymar to leave the club for Paris Saint-Germain.

The Brazil international sealed a move to Ligue 1 last week after PSG smashed the world transfer record by activating a €222million release clause in the forward's contract.

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Xavi, who spent two years as Neymar's team-mate at Camp Nou, has described the move as "bizarre" and is not surprised supporters are angry with the way his exit took place.

"It was his decision and you have to respect it. It's a personal choice. Players today move to where they're wanted the most," Xavi told Le Parisien.

"But nobody could have imagined that he'd leave Barca.

"It's bizarre that a player doesn't want to stay at Barca. It's very rare. It's been 17 years since Luis Figo left for Real Madrid. As with Ney, it was his choice at the time.

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"I don't know how it happened, if there were meetings, conversations... there are many interpretations of this record transfer.

"I understand the Blaugrana fans are upset because Neymar gave no explanation. He left Barca without a press conference or anything... but hey, that's how it is.

"We'll see what he can give to PSG. What I'm sure of is that Barca did not expect a club to pay the €222m release clause. Now they have to manage that money."

Barca have been linked with a bid for Borussia Dortmund's Ousmane Dembele to replace Neymar, with the Bundesliga club reportedly holding out for a sum of €150m for the 20-year-old.

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Xavi believes he would make a shrewd signing for Ernesto Valverde, provided that he can cope with the level of expectation in Catalonia.

"He's a versatile player with a lot of physical and technical qualities, plus he's very fast," said the 38-year-old.

"He's 20, which means two things: he has his whole future ahead of him but he has to show that he has the mental strength for a club as demanding as Barca. Any good player today is worth millions."

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