Football: Not winning Ballon d'Or won't kill me: Neymar

Neymar said he was unconcerned at not being named one of the three finalists for football's highest individual award this year.
Neymar said he was unconcerned at not being named one of the three finalists for football's highest individual award this year.PHOTO: EPA

BARCELONA • Neymar "is not going to die" if he fails to win the Fifa Ballon d'Or and says he plays the game to be happy, not for individual honours.

In an interview published on the official La Liga website on Sunday, the Barcelona forward said he was unconcerned at not being named one of the three finalists for football's highest individual award this year.

"It's obvious that (the Ballon d'Or) is a source of motivation, but I'm not going to die if I don't win it," the 24-year-old Brazilian said.

Neymar was a Ballon d'Or finalist for the first time last year, eventually missing out to team-mate Lionel Messi, who claimed the prize for a fifth time. The 2016 award was contested by Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Antoine Griezmann, with Ronaldo taking it.

"Above all I want to be happy and at Barcelona I'm happy," Neymar said. "If I don't win the Ballon d'Or nothing will change. I don't play football for that. I play to be happy. Only one player can win it."

Another Barcelona connection, former player and coach Pep Guardiola, who currently coaches English club Manchester City, insisted on Sunday that Messi is of a different class compared to Ronaldo, who collected his fourth Ballon d'Or award after a marvellous year.

"Messi is the best, he is definitely the best," said Guardiola. "He knows how to play, score and make the other players play. He is always there.

"With all respect to all the players, first to Cristiano Ronaldo, congratulations to him for the award. I think Messi is on another level."

Neymar also said Barcelona are upbeat about their chances of winning La Liga this season, despite being three points behind Real Madrid, who also have a game in hand.

"There is still a long way to go," Neymar said. "We are just focused on our matches. We can't be worried about Real Madrid.

"Last year we were 11 points ahead of second but we only won the league in the last match of the season. It's a tough competition and every game is difficult."

On his relationship with fellow Barcelona forwards Messi and Luis Suarez, Neymar said: "We are creating history and we are getting better. We want to be happy on the pitch and stay together.

"It's a big pleasure and a little bit strange because we are Brazilian, Argentinian and Uruguayan. We're rivals in international football but we have a great friendship. We're always joking around with each other. It makes me very happy to have people like that in football."

XINHUA

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 27, 2016, with the headline 'Not winning Ballon d'Or won't kill me: Neymar'. Print Edition | Subscribe