SAO PAULO - Brazil superstar Neymar admits that after his nation’s quarterfinal defeat to Belgium at the World Cup he couldn’t look at a ball and didn’t want to see any of the tournament’s remaining matches.
“I wouldn’t go as far as to say I didn’t want to play again but, I didn’t want to see a ball, or to see any more football played,” 26-year-old Neymar told AFP in an exclusive interview on Saturday.
The Paris Saint Germain forward was speaking at his Neymar Praia Grande institute where the Red Bull Neymar Jr 5’s (five-a-side-soccer) tournament was being played.
Dressed in a sleeveless t-shirt, with his six-year-old son Davi Lucca sitting on his knee, the striker was in a relaxed mood as he explained his post-World Cup blues.
“I was in mourning, I was really sad about it, but sadness passes, I have my son, my family, my friends and they don’t want to see me moping around. I’ve got more reason to be happy than sad,” said Neymar, reflecting on Brazil’s quarterfinal exit.
Asked about reports in Spain linking him with a transfer to Real Madrid the forward said “that’s all speculation from the press.”
“The guys who come up with these stories seem to know more about my life than I do. I won’t respond to this type of question because nothing happened,” he scoffed.
The Brazilian superstar, who moved to PSG for a world record €222 million ($264 million) last year, insists the burden of expectation on his shoulders — whether with his club or country — does not weigh heavily.
“No, all the great players feel pressure,” he said.
“It’s true that when it comes to me, there are double standards. I have been aware of this responsibility, not only for Brazil, but also in club football, since I was 17, 18 years old.
“I have prepared myself to handle this pressure and I know that when the results are not what they should be then that pressure increases.”
Neymar was hit by a barrage of criticism for theatrically rolling around after being fouled at the World Cup, but says he should have been protected more.
“People were faster to criticize the one being fouled than the one doing the fouling,” he insisted.
“I went to the World Cup to play, to beat the opposition, not to get kicked. The criticism of me was exaggerated, but I’m a big boy, I’m used to dealing with this kind of thing
“And I can’t be the referee and play at the same time, but there are times I wish I could,” he said.
Earlier this week, Neymar took a swipe at his critics with a tongue-in-cheek video in which he teaches children how to fall to the ground.
“One, two, three, go!” shouts Neymar on the Instagram video as around a dozen youngsters fall to the ground of a parking lot.
“That’s a free-kick!” the Brazilian screams before breaking into fits of laughter.