Unsettled Neymar vexes PSG

Brazilian's tears after Japan friendly fuel speculation he is unhappy in French capital

LONDON • The increasing speculation over Neymar's Paris-Saint Germain future and his tears have clouded Brazil's trip to Wembley for a friendly against England today.

The Brazil star has scored 11 goals in 12 games for PSG since his record move from Barcelona. But recent weeks have yielded stories of rifts with his team-mates and coach Unai Emery.

He cut a fragile figure in the press conference that followed Brazil's 3-1 win over Japan in a friendly in Lille on Friday, wiping away tears as national coach Tite spoke out in his defence before the national captain hurriedly left the room.

"When you are an idol, an example in the eyes of so many people, you have to be perfect and very often I am not," the forward said before his abrupt departure. "I am a young man of 25 with a lot to learn in football."

He has generally dazzled in Ligue 1 since completing his €222 million (S$352 million) transfer, but there have been signs of unease. There was the on-field spat with Edinson Cavani in September, when the Uruguay striker refused to let Neymar take a penalty against Lyon. French media reports have also suggested that Neymar has been disinterested in Emery's video sessions.

He was sent off in PSG's 2-2 draw at Marseille last month. And although he scored one penalty and squandered another against Japan, he was also booked for cuffing Marseille defender Hiroki Sakai on the back of the head.

More worrying yet for PSG's fans have been the reports that Neymar has already expressed regret to former team-mates about leaving Barcelona.

Marcelo Bechler, the Brazilian journalist who broke the story that Neymar would leave Barcelona for PSG, told Spanish radio station Onda Cero Neymar told Gerard Pique and Luis Suarez he wished he had not moved to France.

He has returned to Barcelona at least twice since the start of the season, twice being pictured on social media with Lionel Messi and Suarez, and is even reported to have asked them how they would feel if he came back for good.

Yet Bechler claimed Neymar would not consider a move to Barcelona's arch-rivals Real Madrid as a betrayal, and reports in Spain claim the European champions are already preparing a €200 million summer move for him.

"The relationship between Neymar and Emery is distant, as it is with some players," Bechler told the El Transistor radio show.

PSG and Germany forward Julian Draxler, however, has downplayed the rumours surrounding Neymar.

"It is normal that many things are written about a superstar like Neymar, also lots of bulls***," he was quoted by Goal.com as saying. "He's a very polite and nice guy who knows how important he is for the team. For a player like him it is okay to demand privileges. No one at PSG is jealous or angry with him. We are happy that he is with us."

Neymar aside, Brazil have had little else to worry about, having finished 10 points clear in the South American qualifying tournament for next year's World Cup.

Tite is expected to rotate his side, with Dani Alves, Marquinhos, Philippe Coutinho and Diego among the players tipped to start against Gareth Southgate's men.

England will approach the game in a positive frame of mind after an inexperienced and injury-depleted side held world champions Germany to a 0-0 draw on Friday.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

ENGLAND V BRAZIL

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 14, 2017, with the headline 'Unsettled Neymar vexes PSG'. Print Edition | Subscribe