Lionel Messi says he did not know about Neymar’s decision to join Paris Saint-Germain until the last minute.
The Brazil star left Barcelona for the French side in a world-record move after they triggered his €222 million release clause.
The deal had been the subject of intense media speculation until Neymar arrived at training to tell the club of his desire to leave.
However, Gerard Pique revealed soon afterwards that the 25-year-old had given the indication that he would leave at Messi’s wedding at the end of June, a story backed up last month by Xavi.
Messi, though, says he was clueless about it despite staying close to Neymar while they were on their pre-season tour in the United States.
“Honestly, no,” he said to ESPN when asked if he knew his former team-mate would leave.
“Until the last day of the tour we were talking and we didn’t know anything. He said that he still wasn’t clear what to do and he didn’t know what he was doing. Others said they knew. But right until the last minute, we were speaking to him.”
Luis Suarez revealed that Neymar was unsure about making the move and was there to give him advice.
“We tried to get him to stay but at no time did we say ‘Ney, don’t go because you will not be happy’,” he told Sport.
“We told him we didn’t want him to leave, for us, but if he wanted to leave, he was free to make the decision he wanted. Because of the friendship we have, it was painful that he left.”
Neymar has had a good start to life at PSG, scoring 11 goals in 12 games in all competitions as they sit four points clear at the top of Ligue 1 and three points ahead of Bayern Munich in Champions League Group B.