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'Do you think I want to suffer tackles? It hurts!' - Neymar defends much-maligned theatrics

16:16 BST 21/07/2018
Neymar Brazil 2018
The Paris Saint-Germain and Brazil forward has faced criticism for going to ground too easily, but he claims to be the subject of rough treatment

Neymar has refuted accusations of going to ground too easily, with the Paris Saint-Germain and Brazil forward suggesting that his dribbling ability makes him a target for rough treatment.

The 26-year-old saw his club campaign in 2017-18 ended by a broken metatarsal picked up while challenging for the ball and faced a race against time to rebuild his fitness for World Cup duty.

He was able to lead Brazil at Russia 2018, but faced criticism throughout the tournament for supposed theatrics which saw him spend as much time on the turf as he did on his feet.

Neymar has learned to shrug off the haters – going as far as to mock himself with his own version of the ‘Neymar Challenge’ on social media where fans film themselves mimicking his antics – but he also believes that many onlookers do not appreciate what he has to put up with.

Speaking at a charity auction for his foundation, the Neymar Institute, the PSG superstar said: “I saw [the jokes] but I took them with humour.

“Even yesterday I posted on Instagram a joke with the children about it.

“My football is to dribble, to face the opponent. I can’t stand in front of the opponent and say, ‘My dear, excuse me, I want to score a goal’.

“I can’t do that, I have to dribble past him, I have to try to do something and he will not allow me to go past and he will try to foul me.

“A lot of times I’m faster and lighter than other players and they tackle me, and the referee is there for that.

“Do you think I want to suffer tackles all the time? No, it’s painful, it hurts. After the games I stay back four or five hours putting on ice.

“It’s complicated but if you haven’t experienced that you will never understand.”

Neymar has received support from a number of team-mates and former Brazil stars since enduring a difficult World Cup campaign, with PSG colleague Dani Alves among the latest to have hit back at the detractors.

He said: “Everything Neymar does turns into news. If he gets emotional, they criticise. If he colours his hair, they criticise.

“I want to see these people in Neymar’s place.

“Criticising is a weapon of the weak.

“I believe that we football players always try to do the best for the group and for our teammates.

“There are many people who are ready to judge us, but it isn’t our focus. If you know Neymar, you know how much quality he has and how special he is.

“I believe we have to take care of players like that because they illuminate football. It’s players like him that make football great.

“Criticising Neymar and players of that level is easy, what’s difficult to do is what they do.”