Neymar Brazil 2018Getty Images

Neymar struggling to 'find the strength to play again' after saddest moment of his career

Neymar has branded Brazil’s World Cup quarter-final defeat at the hands of Belgium “the saddest moment of my career” and admits he is struggling to “find the strength to play again”.

The Paris Saint-Germain forward headed to Russia short of match sharpness but expected to carry the expectations of a nation.

He never truly sparkled on the grandest of stages, with a pre-tournament broken metatarsal denying him the opportunity to produce his best.

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In the end, Neymar’s theatrics generated more headlines than his football, with the 26-year-old considered to have spent too much time on the floor and not enough on his feet.

He did come close to snatching a dramatic leveller in the dying stages of a last eight encounter with Belgium, but his effort at the end of a contest in which he made little telling contribution was tipped over the top by Thibaut Courtois.

Neymar and the rest of the Brazil squad are now heading home from an event in which they were considered to be the favourites.

Failure to deliver on that billing has left the Selecao despondent, with their talismanic frontman admitting that another failure is proving difficult to stomach.

Neymar wrote in an Instagram post: "I can say that this is the saddest moment of my career, it is incredibly painful because we knew we could get there, we knew we had conditions to go further, to make history.

"But it was not this time. It's hard to find the strength to play soccer again, but I'm sure God will give me strength enough to face anything, so I'll never stop thanking God, even in defeat ... because I know that your way is much better than mine. I'm very happy to be part of this team, I'm proud of all the players. Our dream was interrupted but they didn't get it out of our head or our hearts."

Neymar must now turn his attention back to domestic matters.

Speculation continues to suggest that he could be the subject of another big-money move 12 months on from a record-breaking €222 million (£196m/$261m) switch to PSG.

He has been linked with Real Madrid for some time and with the Blancos preparing to part with Cristiano Ronaldo, it could be that a return to Spain is made by the former Barcelona star.