Neymar’s inability to “manage his life better” has cost him the Ballon d’Or his talent deserves, according to former Liverpool defender Fabio Aurelio.
The Paris Saint-Germain star is widely recognised as one of the most gifted players in world football, backed up by a glittering CV for club and country.
Yet despite winning honours in Paris and Barcelona, as well as with first club Santos, and despite closing in on Pele’s record of 77 goals for the Brazilian national team, Aurelio believes the 30-year-old is capable of even more.
What did Aurelio say about Neymar?
Speaking exclusively to GOAL, Aurelio said: “I always say that I would be very disappointed if I was him.
“The ambitions he has, and for the quality and talent he has, the fact that he has never won a Ballon d’Or feels wrong. He has all the conditions to do it, but I don’t know what has happened. Maybe some things are more important to him than the game, I don’t know?
“You see [Cristiano] Ronaldo, [Lionel] Messi, they were there at the top level for 10 or 15 years, and you never heard about problems away from the pitch, but Neymar is always involved in things like this.
“He needs to stay away from those things, because he is capable of amazing things. Maybe now, the age he is, if you don’t look after yourself, it can come back and haunt you.
“He is still Neymar, and capable of doing things that you don’t expect, but you see now he is not as fit as he used to be.”
A lesson for young Brazilians?
Aurelio, who won two Liga titles with Valencia and made more than 100 appearances for Liverpool, now works as an agent, advising a number of up-and-coming prospects in Brazil.
“We focus a lot on younger players, and their dream is always to play in Europe,” he says. “I always say that in Europe, they prefer to have a 7/10 player and a 10/10 person, rather than the other way round. I see Neymar like that, to be honest.
“He’s a top player, but he could do more. He could manage his life better, especially considering the influence he has on the next generation of Brazilian players.”
Brazil for the World Cup?
If Brazil are to be successful at the World Cup in Qatar later this year, then Neymar is likely to be key.
However with the emergence of a new generation of talent, such as Real Madrid wonderkids Vinicius Jr and Rodrgyo, Ajax prospect Antony, Atletico Madrid’s Mateus Cunha and Arsenal’s Gabriel Martinelli, head coach Tite will have no shortage of attacking firepower to choose from.
Aurelio said: “The new younger players in Brazil, they are so strong and they are adapting to the top level.
“It won’t be easy to win the World Cup, but you always have to count Brazil as one of the favourites, even if they are not playing well. They have qualified easily, but that shouldn’t be given too much attention. I’ve seen Brazil just about scrape in and then win the tournament, so it’s hard to judge!
“They will be strong again. They are a solid team. Maybe they don’t play the beautiful football people expect, but they are a proper team.”