Tite wants 'leader' Neymar to keep armband

Neymar celebrates scoring the winning penalty that gave Brazil their first gold medal in Olympic men's football.
Neymar celebrates scoring the winning penalty that gave Brazil their first gold medal in Olympic men's football.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

RIO DE JANEIRO • Brazil coach Tite said that he will try to convince Neymar to reverse his decision to quit as national football team captain.

Neymar, 24, stood down as captain on Saturday after Brazil defeated Germany on penalties to win their first Olympic football gold medal in Rio.

"I said to Neymar that he should celebrate for now and worry about (the captaincy) later," Tite told a press conference on Monday.

Neymar did not explain his reason for renouncing the captaincy, although it is believed his strained relationship with Brazil's media played a major part.

During a pre-Olympics news conference at Brazil's Terespolis training base, the forward tersely fended off claims that his celebrity lifestyle could be affecting his football.

The 24-year-old has barely appeared before the media since, speaking only when forced to do so.

"Being a leader involves many aspects," Tite said.

"He (Neymar) is a leader on the pitch. There is also the aspect of talking in public. We will see."

Tite said the captaincy could be rotated between Neymar and other experienced players such as Inter Milan central defender Miranda and Juventus right-back Daniel Alves.

Earlier, Guangzhou Evergrande midfielder Paulinho was recalled to Brazil's squad for their World Cup qualifiers against Ecuador and Colombia next month.

The former Tottenham Hotspur player has not represented Brazil since the 2014 World Cup, but has impressed Tite with his form for the Chinese Super League outfit this year.

The 55-year-old coach also named five uncapped players in his first 23-man squad.

With several Europe-based players deemed not fit enough, Tite has turned to several players with little experience at the international level. He has selected Gabriel Jesus, Taison, Rafael Carioca, Fagner and goalkeeper Weverton.

Manchester City's close-season signing Jesus, who is back on loan at former club Palmeiras, and Weverton, who made a crucial save in the penalty shoot-out victory over Germany in the Olympic final last week, are two of seven Rio gold medallists included.

Real Madrid left-back Marcelo has also returned after being overlooked for the centenary edition of the Copa America in June.

As expected, the squad includes Neymar and Liverpool midfielder Philippe Coutinho.

Tite replaced Dunga as Brazil's national coach in June after the team's group-stage elimination from the Copa America.

Brazil will play Ecuador in Quito on Sept 1 followed by a clash with Colombia in Manaus five days later.

The Selecao are sixth in the South American zone qualifying standings for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The top four teams will book a direct berth in the tournament while the fifth-ranked side will earn a play-off spot.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 24, 2016, with the headline 'Tite wants 'leader' Neymar to keep armband'. Subscribe