Neymar in Puma.

STAR PLAYER: Puma has signed Brazilian football player Neymar Jr., signaling the German sporting goods firm’s ambition to challenge its competitors Nike and Adidas on the soccer field.

The deal gives Puma a heavyweight football ambassador to field against Cristiano Ronaldo at Nike and Lionel Messi at Adidas. The tie-up had been rumored since Neymar announced the early end of his contract with Nike, which sponsors the Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) soccer team where he plays.

Though it counts Antoine Griezmann and Luis Suárez among its brand ambassadors, Puma had lacked a global star since Usain Bolt retired from sports. Neymar will wear the Puma King football boot on the pitch and will be an ambassador for its lifestyle, training and sport-inspired footwear and apparel products off-pitch.

“Neymar Jr. joining our Puma family is fantastic”, said Bjørn Gulden, chief executive officer of Puma. “He is one of the best players in the world and extremely influential for the global football and youth culture. We are very excited and look forward to working with him both on and off the pitch.”

In a message on his social media channels titled “The King Is Back,” Neymar said he was inspired by Puma’s previous partnerships with soccer legends Pelé and Diego Maradona.

“I grew up watching videos of great football legends such as Pelé, Cruyff, Matthäus, Eusébio and Maradona,” he said. “These were the Kings of the pitch, the Kings of my sport. I wish to bring back the legacy that those athletes created on the pitch. They each played in Puma, and each of them created their magic in The King.”

With 61 goals in 101 matches for Brazil, Neymar is the third highest goalscorer for his national team, trailing only Pelé and Ronaldo. He transferred from Barcelona to PSG in 2017 in a move worth 222 million euros, making him the most expensive player ever, and has since helped the French club win scores of titles.

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