Batista to run Neymar's career

Brazil forward Neymar has handed control of his career and image rights to the country's richest man.

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RIO DE JANEIRO - Brazil forward Neymar has handed control of his career and image rights to the country's richest man, Eike Batista, in a deal announced on Tuesday.

Neymar's signing with Batista's IMX Talent hands the group control of the soccer player's image both during his playing days and after he retires.

"We are proud to support idols like Neymar Jr," Batista said in a joint statement with Neymar. "With IMX Talent we will develop the careers of some of Brazil's biggest sporting icons and discover more talents."

Neymar added: "I am very happy to have a Brazilian company with bases the world over alongside me to help me in my career."

Neither party disclosed the terms of the deal but sources told Reuters it will not affect Neymar's current commitments to sponsors such as Nike, Red Bull and Panasonic.

Neymar, 20, joins other big names in the IMX Talent stable, including Olympic long jump gold medallist Maurren Maggi and Torben Grael, the sailor who has won more Olympic medals than any other Brazilian.

The fleet-footed striker has been the outstanding player in Brazil over the last two years, starring for a Santos side that won the Copa do Brasil in 2010, the South American club tournament, the Libertadores Cup, in 2011 and consecutive championships with Brazil's Paulista State in 2010, 2011 and 2012.

He was voted Brazil's player of the year last season and also won FIFA's Puskas Award for the best goal of 2011.

Rated at 43 million pounds by Pluri, a sports marketing firm, Neymar has rebuffed overtures from Barcelona and Real Madrid in Spain's La Liga, and English Premier League club Chelsea which recently won the UEFA Champions League.

In 2011, he extended his contract with Santos to tie himself to the club until after the 2014 World Cup, which will be held in Brazil.

Under the deal, he earns a reported $1.5 million a month, the majority of which is paid by sponsors and advertisers including Banco Santander Brasil, the Brazilian unit of Spanish banking behemoth Banco Santander.

Batista, meanwhile, is one of Brazil's best-known businessmen, a sharp-talking entrepreneur with interests in oil, mining, logistics and other fields and whose net worth was estimated at close to $30 billion earlier this year by Forbes Magazine.

A keen sportsman himself, Batista last year joined with IMG Worldwide to form Brasil1 Sports & Entertainment, a marketing agency that has a hand in organizing a number of high-profile events in Brazil.

He has also spent his own money to help his adopted home city of Rio de Janeiro prepare for the 2016 Olympic Games. In addition to funding parts of the Rio bid, he has invested in reforming hotels, infrastructure and even venues for the big event.