When Neymar Jr. walked out onto the pitch against Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday night, it was the first time the Brazilian featured in a match since February 1.
A rib injury suffered against Montpellier HSC sidelined Neymar for a total of four matches, which was longer than most anticipated because the 28-year-old was photographed in training less than a week after the injury.
Manager Thomas Tuchel was constantly asked about his star player’s availability before every match but he always said that he was relying on the advice of his medical team. However, a recent report points to Paris Saint-Germain’s sporting director, Leonardo, as the one who had the ultimate say in whether or not Neymar played before the UEFA Champions League match against Dortmund.
According to Le Parisien sources, “the decision not to play Neymar to protect him from any risk of relapse before the Champions League ultimately fell to Leonardo, which aligned itself with the recommendations of the medical staff.”
Neymar was critical of PSG’s decision after the 2-1 loss to Dortmund where he did score PSG’s only goal.
“It was difficult to stay four games without playing but unfortunately it was not my choice. It’s a choice of the club, the doctors. They made this decision and I did not like it.”
“We had a lot of discussions around this because I wanted to play. I felt good but the club was afraid. In the end, it is I who suffer from it.”
“I understand the fear that the club will suffer because in two years I found myself out of the knockout stages. I respect the decisions, but it can’t be like that, because the player ends up suffering.”
I was one of the ones that thought Neymar could jump right back into the starting lineup after a lengthy absence and perform at an elite level but I was obviously wrong. Neymar was one of PSG’s better players on the night but he was far from being the spectacular, game-changing player we all know.
Leonardo was right to be a bit “afraid” to play Neymar because of the abuse he takes in Ligue 1 and losing him again to injury right before the knockout stage would have been devastating. Was he overly cautious? Perhaps, but I don’t think supporters should blame him too much for making the decision that he did.
After the match, Neymar took to social media to show that he still has faith that PSG can mount a come back in the return leg at the Parc des Princes, writing, “Faith, focus, and trust in us… Allez PSG.”
Fé, foco e confiança em nós … ALLEZ PSG 🔵🔴 pic.twitter.com/TLnIZgbbHq
— Neymar Jr (@neymarjr) February 19, 2020
PSG plays four matches before hosting Dortmund to decide who will advance to the quarter-finals of the Champions League and barring any injuries, I expect Neymar to play in nearly all of them.
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