Lokomotiv Moscow missed a chance to sign Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar for €10million as a teenager, the club’s former president Nikolai Naumov has claimed.
Neymar became the most expensive footballer in history last August when he left Barcelona for PSG in a deal which cost the Ligue 1 giants €222m.
The Brazil international had long established himself as one of the world’s best – and most marketable – footballers, coming to prominence with Santos in his homeland before seamlessly developing into a star alongside Lionel Messi at Barca.
But the trajectory of his career could have been different had Lokomotiv followed up on their initial interest after seeing him play against their youth team as a 16-year-old during the 2008 edition of the Mediterranean Cup.
As it happened, Lokomotiv opted not to gamble on Neymar and stuck with their own academy products, with Naumov suggesting that Alan Gatagov – now a free agent after most recently playing for Estonia’s Levadia – looked more impressive.
“We thought about whether or not it was worth buying Neymar,” Nikolai Naumov told Sport Express. “We wanted to buy him. Our scouts watched the Brazilian.
“But there were quite big doubts. Firstly, he was too young. Second, it was not clear how he’d adapt to Russia. He was so fragile – small guy. Therefore, we decided against getting him.
“The scouts recognised his ability, but we decided to refrain from buying. Plus, for they asked a lot of money for him, so we didn’t want to risk it. A young boy from Brazil, even if potentially worth a lot of money, is a risk.
“I do not remember exactly [the price quoted], but somewhere around €10m. You understand, paying so much for a youngster from another continent, and it’s not even your own money, it comes from the company’s funds, in such situations you have to act very carefully.
“We lost in the final [of the competition], but I didn’t notice Neymar standing out stronger than the others. Even Alan Gatagov looked just as good.”