Neymar has said that Lionel Messi is still his “idol,” despite calling reports saying he wants to return to Barcelona as “fake news.”
The Brazil international is into his second season with the French champions and was recently targeted by Marseille fans throwing objects as PSG ran out 2-0 winners in Le Classique at Stade Velodrome on Sunday.
Speaking with the Players’ Tribune as part of a crossover interview with basketball star Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors, Neymar talked about playing and training alongside Messi, while he also had praise for Juventus’ Cristiano Ronaldo.
“I played with Messi, who is, for me, one of the greatest footballers of all time, and he is my idol in football,” he said. “With Messi, I learned every day, whether during our practice, or playing with him, or just watching him play. That made me stronger and it increased my capacity on the field because I kept learning a lot from him.
“As for Cristiano, he is a monster. Facing him is a pleasure and an honour, but we have to be more prepared. He is one of the greatest in football, so you get smarter, you get alert, but at the same time you learn a lot, too.
“So, they are two of the big guys that I can relate to, because I want to learn, I want more, I want to win, I want more trophies, score more goals. So, I keep learning from them every day.”
Neymar, who recently released his own “Inked” comic book series, which sees tattoos come to life to fight crime, as explained by the comic’s creators to Dan Hajducky at New York Comic Con, was also asked about the toughest moments of his career.
The 26-year-old listed his World Cup 2014-ending back injury and overcoming his injury earlier this year to participate in this summer’s World Cup in Russia.
“The first when I injured my back,” he said. “I was living a dream, playing in a World Cup, and then it was over because I got injured. For me it was like the end of everything.
“I asked myself: ‘Am I ever going to be back on the field?’ My family and my friends were really important for me at that moment — they helped me to get up again.
“The other moment happened this year, after my first surgery. It was close to the World Cup, I did not see myself playing, and my family, my girlfriend [now ex Bruna Marquezine] and my friends stayed with me — they made me believe in my dream: that I would play in a World Cup again. These two moments are important to me — believing in this comeback.”
Neymar went on to pick “amazing” fellow PSG and Brazil player Dani Alves as his funniest teammate but joked that the ex-Barca and Juventus man is “the oldest guy!”
Meanwhile, former PSG goalkeeping coach Nicolas Dehon recalled Les Parisiens’ infamous Champions League capitulation to Neymar-inspired Barca in the Champions League back in 2017 and suggested that rally still haunts certain PSG players, as well as the potentially decisive impact of Thiago Motta’s absence.
“Yes, I think that the PSG players on the pitch the night of the rally are still traumatised,” he told RMC Sport. “Even if they have tasted other European disappointment, there are still after-effects.
“I do not know if it is a complex, but there is something blocking them. Something like that is always in the back of your mind. The next time they beat a European giant 4-0 at home, the dressing room will cogitate.”
“Although he did not play, Thiago’s half-time speech was excellent. It did not work out, but you really knew that the guy had played for the biggest clubs.
“If Thiago played, I do not know if PSG would have lost. He was important — he would have spoken with the referee at key moments and applied some pressure. Thiago was missed, that is certain, and he knew Barcelona. He would have thrown himself into tackles and pressured them.”