In his first press conference as a Brazil player in more than 240 days, Neymar said on Monday that he’s keen on making Brazil one of the favourite teams in the next World Cup in Russia and admitted to have matured after a series of controversies.
Beyond troubles on the pitch, Neymar also faces legal challenges in Spain due to suspicions of irregularities in his transfer from Santos to Barcelona. Tax authorities in Brazil are also investigating and have fined the striker, over which he is appealing. But that didn't stop the Brazil national coach Tite from giving the star the captaincy band for a World Cup qualifying match against Paraguay on Tuesday, a position the coach usually rotates.
Neymar told journalists before the South American zone leader’s :
There was never a dependency on Neymar. This is Brazil. If focused, our team is the best. We know this, we are humble enough to respect our adversaries, we have to play. Sometimes one part or the other didn’t fit. The players are not so different — it is the way of playing. Now everyone turns up.
Coach Tite Backs Neymar
"Neymar deserves the band, he is a skill leader and he is maturing despite pressure," Tite said.
Brazil's coach singled out a moment in his team's 4-1 victory at Uruguay on Thursday to show how much Neymar, who was often accused by rivals of diving and simulating injuries, had changed.
Although some already put him as future best player in the world, including big names like former Italian defender Alessandro Costacurta, Neymar rejected comparisons with multiple Ballon D'Or winners Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, his teammate at Barcelona.
"There has been a big change. We now have more confidence to seek our identity and we did it. No matter when or where, Brazil will always be one of the favorites for titles," Neymar said.
On being compared to Ronaldo and Messi, he said:
I don’t feel comfortable to compare. They are two geniuses who have had colossal performances. I admire both.
Brazil will qualify for the World Cup with four games in hand at the Arena Corinthians if they beat Paraguay and see Chile and Ecuador failing to win home matches.
Join us on WhatsApp. Type “JOIN” and send to 9910181818.