NEWS
11/09/2011 01:51 EST | Updated 01/09/2012 05:12 EST

Brazil striker Neymar agrees new deal to stay with Santos until 2014 World Cup on home soil

SAO PAULO - Neymar has agreed to a new contract with Santos that ties him to the Brazilian club until the South American country hosts the 2014 World Cup.

Despite widespread rumours of a move to Real Madrid or Barcelona, Neymar said Wednesday he made the decision to stay with Santos because it's where he believes he will be the happiest.

Brazil's most promising young star in years, Neymar said the contract will allow him to stay near his family and friends for as long as possible.

"Here is where I'm happy and here is where I want to stay," he said at a news conference. "I've always said that happiness would play a significant role in my decision. It wasn't an easy decision but I'm happy here, with my family, my friends and my teammates."

The 19-year-old Neymar said that being near his baby also was key. He is not married but became the father of a boy last August.

"It's been a wonderful experience and I want to be here to see my son grow up," he said. "I wouldn't have a lot of contact with him playing abroad. Santos fans have to thank him too for my decision to stay."

Wearing a jersey with the words, "It's good to be the king," Neymar said he is honoured to be wanted by Real Madrid and Barcelona but that it is just as important to be able to wear the famous Santos shirt.

"I'm wearing the jersey that Pele wore and I'll be playing in some of the best tournaments in the world, like the Copa Libertadores and the Club World Cup, which is what I always said that I wanted to do," Neymar said.

Santos president Luis Alvaro Ribeiro said his club will never be able to compete with offers from many European teams but that Neymar will earn more money in the new deal.

"When we signed a contract last August, he was already an idol and a notable player," Ribeiro said. "But when we discussed the contract now, we are talking about a legend, so it's natural that we revised the financial details to make justice to what Neymar is doing for Santos."

There was also an increase in the buyout clause, but Ribeiro wouldn't disclose the new amount. It was worth €45 million ($62 million) in the previous contract.

Ribeiro said he personally called the presidents of Madrid and Barcelona to let them know that Neymar had reached the deal to stay with Santos.

At the news conference in the coastal city of Santos, Ribeiro gave the striker a jersey with the words "Neymar Jr 2014."

Neymar, who will be 22 by the World Cup, rejected an offer worth millions from Chelsea last year and Ribeiro said other clubs that had contacted Santos to show interest in signing the speedy striker included Manchester City and Anzhi Makhachkala of Russia.

One of the 23 candidates in the running for the FIFA world player of the year award, Neymar is expected to lead Brazil's attack at the World Cup.

He became well known after helping Santos win the traditional Sao Paulo state championship and the Brazilian Cup last year. Interest grew after playing well for Brazil, and he established himself for good after leading Santos to the Copa Libertadores title earlier this year.

Neymar became known as the "New Robinho" — the skilful Brazil striker he resembles — and now some fans are even saying that he may eventually come close to the level of Pele, who led Santos to its previous Copa Libertadores titles in 1962 and '63.

He will be the team's top star when Santos plays in FIFA's Club World Cup in December, a tournament in which Barcelona will also participate.

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