SAO PAULO • Neymar's injury diagnosis has lurched from his Paris Saint-Germain manager Unai Emery saying he had a "small chance" of facing Real Madrid in their Champions League last 16 return leg to his father revealing he faced "at least six weeks out".
But the latest chapter in the foot injury saga took a darker turn yesterday after the Brazil national team doctor dropped the bombshell that he would be out for up to three months after surgery.
The 26-year-old, who became the world's most expensive player last August when PSG paid Barcelona €222 million (S$359 million) to sign him, is to undergo surgery on a fractured metatarsal tomorrow.
And Brazil's team doctor Rodrigo Lasmar said Neymar will need up to three months to recover, sparking fears he would not only miss the rest of PSG's season but also face a race to be fit for the June 14-July 15 World Cup Finals .
"The surgery will be done in Belo Horizonte at the Mater Dei hospital on Saturday morning," he told TV Globo. "The recovery period will be between 21/2 and three months. That depends a lot on his post-surgery recovery.
"We will have more details after the procedure."
Neymar will miss this month's friendlies against World Cup hosts Russia and reigning champions Germany, but Lasmar said he expected the star to be back in time for the World Cup.
Five-time World Cup winners Brazil play their first group match on June 17 against Switzerland before facing Costa Rica and Serbia.
HE KNOWS WHAT'S BEST
Neymar is, of course, upset, sad, down. But he understands that there is no option now other than to recuperate and dedicate himself to recuperating, so he can be good as soon as possible.
RODRIGO LASMAR, Brazil's national football team doctor, offers an insight into the world's most expensive player's mind.
"We have time to recuperate him and it will all be done to ensure he is ready as quickly as possible so that he will have enough time to prepare adequately and arrive in top condition for the tournament," he added.
"Neymar is, of course, upset, sad, down. But he understands that there is no option now other than to recuperate and dedicate himself to recuperating, so he can be good as soon as possible."
The Brazilian was seen arriving in Rio de Janeiro on an Air France flight from Paris.
Joined by Lasmar and team coordinator Edu Gaspar, the player immediately took a private jet to an undisclosed destination, according to Brazil's team spokesman Vinicius Rodrigues.
Neymar did not appear too downcast on social media, thanking his fans for their support and well-wishes.
"Thank you for all the messages! Obstacles should not stop you, if you come across a wall, don't give up. Find out how to climb it," he said in Portuguese on Instagram.
It was accompanied by a picture of him lying on the pitch right after he suffered the injury as well as a sprained ankle during PSG's 3-0 win over Marseille on Sunday.
The social media post racked up almost three million "likes", among them his girlfriend, Brazilian soap opera actress Bruna Marquezine.
PSG confirmed the injury on Wednesday, ruling him out of next Tuesday's Champions League glamour tie at Parc des Princes, with the team trailing the holders 1-3.
PSG also have other injury concerns, with key defender Marquinhos a doubt and forward Kylian Mbappe limping off in their French Cup 3-0 quarter-final win over Marseille on Wednesday.
The club said in a statement: "After tests and, with the player's agreement, it has been decided surgery is the best option. He will be operated on in Brazil at the end of the week."
Neymar has scored 28 goals and provided 16 assists in all competitions for PSG this season.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS