Nike has confirmed the early end of its 15-year partnership with Brazilian football star Neymar, ending one of its most high-profile sponsorship agreements.
“I can confirm that Neymar is no longer a Nike athlete,” Josh Benedek, a spokesman for the American firm said in an email sent to the AFP news service.
Nike began working with Neymar when he was 13 years old. At the age of 19, when playing for Santos in Brazil, the player signed an agreement with the sportswear firm for 11 years, which was due to end in 2022. Neymar was set to earn $105m (€88.1m) over the course of the deal, according to Brazilian website UOL.
UOL also reported that the 28-year-old is in talks for potential replacement deal with Nike’s German rival Puma.
Neymar’s personal brand was dented last year when a Brazilian woman accused him of raping her. Nike at the time said it was “very concerned” about the accusation. The company ultimately stuck with the player after police closed the case due to a lack of evidence.
Nike has been the sponsor of each of Neymar’s clubs – Santos, Barcelona and current club Paris Saint-Germain – as well as the Brazil national team, so he will continue to appear in Nike-branded kit.
Forbes magazine estimates Neymar’s earnings for this year at $95.5m, including endorsement deals.
Nike’s other major football sponsorships include European clubs Barcelona, Inter Milan, Chelsea, Tottenham and Galatasaray. The company recently added Premier League champions, Liverpool to its portfolio.