Case sure to have impact

Neymar's form is suffering in the wake of the fraud case over his transfer from Santos to Barcelona three years ago. He has not scored in his last seven club games and earlier, he had given up the captaincy of the Brazil squad after the Rio Olympics.
Neymar's form is suffering in the wake of the fraud case over his transfer from Santos to Barcelona three years ago. He has not scored in his last seven club games and earlier, he had given up the captaincy of the Brazil squad after the Rio Olympics.PHOTO: REUTERS

Brazil coach Tite highlights pressure, says others must help Neymar to stay calm

RIO DE JANEIRO • A Spanish corruption case surrounding Neymar's transfer from Santos to Barcelona in 2013 is certain to influence the Brazil forward's form, according to national team coach Tite.

The 24-year-old is expected to lift Barcelona's fortunes as the Catalan giants take on Real Madrid in this season's first El Clasico on Saturday.

Spain's public prosecutor last week called for Neymar to be sent to prison for two years for his part in the fraud case.

It stems from a complaint by Brazilian investment group DIS, which owned 40 per cent of Neymar's transfer rights and alleges it received less money than it was entitled to because Barcelona concealed the real transfer fee.

"It's a lie to say that he (Neymar) is coming to work and leaving all his problems off the field," Tite told Reuters on Monday. "Yes, it is going to have an influence and he is going to need a group of people to advise him.

"There's no way to dissociate (the two), it is going to depend on the capacity of the people around him to tell him to 'stay calm'."

Altamiro Bezerra, chief executive officer of Neymar's company, said last week that they were "very relaxed" because there was "nothing new" in the latest court filing to reopen the case.

A spokesman for Barcelona said this month that if the trial went ahead, the club would defend the innocence of all those being investigated.

Tite, who once described the pressure on Neymar as "inhumane", has worked hard to reduce Brazil's reliance on the player since taking over as coach in June.

He has rotated the captaincy among several senior players and given more game time to Philippe Coutinho and Gabriel Jesus, two other young forwards, to help share the load in attack.

Neymar, 24, himself seemed to recognise the pressure he was under when he handed back the captain's armband after the Olympic Games, saying he wanted to concentrate on playing.

"He is still in the process of evolving, including maturing," Tite said of his key player. "He will hit the peak of his career when he is 27, 28 years old."

Neymar, nevertheless, has to buck up soon since his goals for Barcelona appear to have dried up.

He started the season well but has no goal to show for in seven games for the club now.

Luis Suarez, the other forward along with Lionel Messi in Barcelona's trident, has just one goal in five games.

This situation must be worrying for coach Luis Enrique because Barcelona seem to be over-dependent on Messi, who has netted 10 of their 14 goals in their last eight games.

Neymar can ill-afford to let his team down again on Saturday, as Barcelona, ahead of Sevilla on goal difference, are six points behind Real at the top of the La Liga table.

Another failure on his part to deliver could mean Barcelona trailing their arch-rivals by nine points with less than half the Spanish Primera Liga season gone.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 30, 2016, with the headline 'Case sure to have impact'. Print Edition | Subscribe