BELO HORIZONTE (Brazil) • The race against the World Cup clock has officially begun for Neymar after it was revealed on Saturday it would be "six weeks" before the Paris Saint-Germain forward could start training again following surgery on his broken foot.
Neymar left the Mater Dei Hospital in Brazil yesterday, 24 hours after an operation which was declared a "complete success" to repair a fractured fifth metatarsal in his right foot.
It remains to be seen whether the 26-year-old will have any part to play in the rest of PSG's season, and what kind of shape he will be in ahead of Brazil's World Cup tilt.
The five-time world champions play their first Group E match on June 17 against Switzerland before facing Costa Rica and Serbia.
"The recovery time will depend on the player's evolution. In six weeks, we will make a new evaluation," Brazil team doctor Rodrigo Lasmar, who performed the operation, said.
PSG doctor Gerard Saillant added the timing of Neymar's return could only be given at the six-week mark, with the French league leaders confirming his rehabilitation would be "under the control of the club's physiotherapist".
On Thursday, Lasmar said the world's most expensive footballer at €222 million (S$360.9 million) would need at least 21/2, if not three months to recover.
This would put him uncomfortably close to the start of the World Cup, and he has already been ruled out of Brazil's two friendlies against Russia and Germany this month.
Amid frenzied coverage, Brazil's Globo Esporte website had claimed that Neymar booked a whole hospital wing, while a local newspaper said his suite was more modest.
Hospital staff were put on a paparazzi lockdown but, despite the blackout, Neymar had no qualms about sharing his experience on social media, putting up a picture on Instagram Stories of himself in a wheelchair with actress girlfriend Bruna Marquezine kissing him.
His absence will be keenly felt in tomorrow's Champions League last-16, return leg against holders Real Madrid, with the French league leaders trailing 1-3.
Real coach Zinedine Zidane has, however, warned his players there can be no room for complacency after their 3-1 LaLiga home win over 10-man Getafe on Saturday.
Gareth Bale got the opener before Cristiano Ronaldo hit his 300th and 301st Spanish league goals, becoming only the second player to pass the mark after Lionel Messi .
"We will prepare seriously for Tuesday. We will have to play with a different intensity but we are ready. We feel sorry for Neymar, but they are a very strong team and the player that is going to replace him will be very strong," Zidane said.
"They have a lot of offensive power (even without Neymar), but we're going to try to do damage in Paris," added captain Sergio Ramos.
AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE