MADRID – Brazil coach Dunga would prefer to see Barcelona star Neymar at the Rio Olympics in August than the centennial Copa America in the United States in June.
Dunga and his staff are in Spain this week to talk to Neymar and Barcelona to decide in which tournaments the forward will play. Officials from the Brazilian football confederation said a decision will only be made after an agreement is reached among all parties.
“If I have to choose between Copa America and the Olympics, I prefer to see him (Neymar) in the Olympics,” Dunga told Brazilian TV channel Esporte Interativo.
Dunga, who was in the Spanish capital for Real Madrid’s Champions League match against Roma on Tuesday, highlighted “the importance of the gold medal for Brazil.”
Neymar has said he wants to play in both competitions, but Barcelona is likely to ask him to participate in only one of them.
“It will be up to them to decide what to do,” Gilmar Rinaldi, the confederation official overseeing the Brazilian national team, told AP at Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu Stadium. “We will talk to the player and to Barcelona coach (Luis Enrique) to see what they have in mind.”
Barcelona is not obliged to release players for the Olympic tournament, where only three players above the age of 23 can play in each squad.
Dunga said he would rather have the 24-year-old Neymar at the Olympics, which is the only significant soccer tournament Brazil hasn’t won.
Neymar’s Barcelona teammate Lionel Messi has already said he will play for Argentina in the Copa America, not the Olympics. Messi helped his nation win the gold medal in the 2008 Games in Beijing.
Dunga also said that it was natural for Real Madrid defender Marcelo to be upset for not being called up for upcoming matches in South American qualifying for the 2018 World Cup. The defender was coming off a muscle injury but told Brazilian media that he had expected to be called up.
Brazil hosts Uruguay on March 26 and then plays at Paraguay three days later.