Despite a global pandemic, unnecessary shots towards the character of Neymar Jr. isn’t taking a break.
First, the ESPN FC Twitter account tweeted out a clickbait article over the anxiety the Brazilian is enduring due to the uncertainty of when football will return.
Then, Rafael of Olympique Lyonnais spoke with ESPN (via Diario AS) about Neymar and the Brazilian national team with the Copa América and FIFA World Cup rescheduled for next summer. Last year, the Seleção was able to claim the South American crown on home soil despite Neymar’s absence as a result of an ankle injury.
However, Rafael, who has two appearances for Brazil, believes that the Paris Saint-Germain winger is a vital piece to the Brazilian squad.
“We need Neymar, that’s for sure,” said Rafael. “We need him a lot. He needs to improve a lot of things outside the pitch. It’s important for a footballer.”
Then came the criticism from the Lyon right-back, who complimented Neymar’s technical skills, but also took a shot at his ability to lead Brazil.
“Neymar is not a leader. I don’t think he’s a leader. It’s not him,” said Rafael. “He can do the things he does because if he is good, if he’s focused and concentrated, he is the best player in the world.”
Although it may come off as harsh, sometimes there are star players that prefer to go out and perform on the pitch and not want to deal with a leadership role. Often times, the best player on a squad isn’t the captain.
In this case, Rafael is wrong. Look at the footage and quotes that came out after PSG defeated Borussia Dortmund in the UEFA Champions League’s Round of 16. Despite not having the armband, Neymar showed leadership in not allowing the capital club to suffer another early-round exit. He was even reduced to tears after the win. That’s how much it meant to him.
After some on-the-pitch criticism, Rafael decided to attack Neymar’s lifestyle.
“Football has to be the first option of your life. He has so many things around him. He thinks in his mind, ‘I don’t need to do that’ to play well, but you need to. There are a lot of things you need to do,” Rafael said. “If he does that and someone can put this in his mind—I know him, and I’ve played with him—I know he’s a hard guy to listen to orders. It’s not good with him.”
Finally, the interview wraps up with Rafael, saying that if Neymar were to listen more, then Brazil would be a tough team to defeat.
“I say the truth, but sometimes people don’t want to listen to the truth. They want you to say ‘you are good, you are magic’; they want you to say all the good stuff, but life is not like that,” Rafael said. “I think he needs to listen more, and if he does that, it will be hard to stop Brazil.”
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