NEYMAR’S father and the head of Paris Saint-Germain both poured cold water Tuesday over rumors that the world’s most expensive footballer wants to quit the French club after returning from injury.
“Neymar already has a future at PSG, Neymar already has a present at PSG,” Neymar Santos Sr told journalists at his son’s charity center, the Neymar Junior Institute, in Praia Grande, Sao Paulo state.
With the superstar striker out for weeks while he recuperates from foot surgery, reports have emerged in the European media that Neymar is disenchanted with PSG and wants to return to his old club Barcelona — or even make a shock move to arch rivals Real Madrid.
Without the injured Neymar, PSG went crashing out of the Champions League to Real Madrid in the last 16 this month.
PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi, his sports director Antero Henrique and club spokesman Jean-Martial Ribes visited the 26-year-old at his luxury house near Brazil’s coast on Monday and his charity institute on Tuesday.
Their trip had been planned far in advance of the current uproar, Ribes told AFP. However the meeting, which Neymar Sr recorded with photos on his Instagram feed, couldn’t help having something of the look of a crisis summit.
Emerging in front of reporters at the institute, both sides seemed keen to quash the speculation.
Neymar “is happy, highly motivated and excited to come back as soon as possible,” Al-Khelaifi said.
However, journalists were told that they could not ask about the Real Madrid rumors.
Neymar fractured a bone in his right foot on February 25 and faces a lengthy lay-up following surgery in early March.
Brazilian team doctor Rodrigo Lasmar has said that Neymar — transferred to PSG from Barcelona after the French club paid his 222 million-euro ($264 million) buyout clause last August — will need at least two and a half months, maybe three, to return to action.
PSG still hopes to get him back before the end of its season. “Everybody is doing his best to come back as soon as possible, without any risk for sure,” Al-Khelaifi said.
“But the doctors are going to say. I’m not in a position to say exactly when he will come back. The doctors are following and it depends on recovery, but I think he’s in good shape,” the club president said.
Brazil’s national team are hoping he will be back to full fitness in time to help lead them at the World Cup starting in Russia on June 14. Experts say that while Neymar will be short of match practice, he could benefit by arriving at the tournament fresher than his rivals.jm-lg-sms/mw
The Socceroos need to beat Peru and hope France beat Denmark in order to reach the knockout stage of the World Cup for the first time since 2006.
But it’s not quite that simple. Because of the 1-1 draw against Denmark, should the Socceroos beat Peru 1-0 and the Danes lose to France 2-1 both the Socceroos and Denmark will be level on points and goal difference.
Neither side will want that kind of heartbreak, of course, and so the Socceroos need to win, win well and keep a clean sheet to give themselves the best chance of progressing.
The stakes are high, but after excellent performances against both France and Denmark the Socceroos can feel confident of getting a result against Peru, who have nothing to play for but pride after their defeat to France ensured an early exit.
WHEN AND WHERE?
June 27 at Fisht Stadium in Sochi. Kick-off is scheduled for 12am (AEST) on Wednesday.
HOW CAN I WATCH IT?
Watch the match live on both SBS and Optus Sport. Follow all the action with foxsports.com.au’s live blog and in-depth coverage.
Injury concerns: Jefferson Farfan has all but been ruled out after the winger suffered a blow to the head in training. Farfan clashed with the goalkeeper and was rushed to hospital with a head injury, but is reportedly out of danger.
Head to head
This is the first meeting between these two nations.
The 27-year-old pulls the strings in the middle of the park, whips dangerous balls into the box and stands over the Socceroos’ dead-ball situations.
He has stepped up to the responsibility with ease and he will need to maintain the composure against Peru’s slightly more flamboyant midfield.
Peru: Paolo Guerrero
He hasn’t got on the scoresheet yet this tournament, but Paolo Guerrero is Peru’s biggest threat going forward.
Peru’s all-time leading goal scorer was surprising left on the bench for the first match against Denmark, but made such an impact when he came on that he was back in the starting line-up against France.
Socceroos defenders Trent Sainsbury and Mark Milligan will have their work cut out for them, with the veteran determined not to exit the tournament without something to his name.
THE TALKING POINTS
The hot topic is Bert van Marwijk’s team selection.
When Daniel Arzani entered the game in the second half against Denmark, the young starlet made an immediate impact.
Whether Van Marwijk decides to keep the 19-year-old on the bench or start him in place of Robbie Kruse will be a telling indication of how he plans to approach the match.
Then there’s Tim Cahill. The Socceroos’ all-time leading goal scorer should have come on against Denmark in a situation that was made for him.
Will the 38-year-old get his opportunity to create his own history by scoring in his fourth World Cup?
WHY THE SOCCEROOS WILL WIN
Their performances against France and Denmark will have instilled belief and confidence in the team.
The Socceroos were unlucky not to have picked up all three points against Denmark and will be driven by that disappointment.
In Maty Ryan, Trent Sainsbury, Mile Jedinak and Aaron Mooy the Socceroos have the most crucial positions on the park well covered, but they all need to maintain their excellent form.
Also, Peru have not won at the World Cup since 1978, when they beat Iran 4-1.
WHY PERU WILL WIN
Having nothing to play for often enables a team to play with freedom.
They’ve had such passionate support from their fans, which will make them determined not to leave the World Cup empty-handed.
The Socceroos also have a poor record against South American nations, with just eight wins in 41 matches.
A statement from the national team stated that “Farfan made an impact with the rival goalkeeper after an attack play, suffering a traumatic brain injury.”
“Immediately, all the corresponding protocols were followed and he was transferred to the hospital assigned by the Local Organising Committee of the World Cup where all the pertinent medical studies have been carried out.
Teammate Anderson Santamaria has commented on the sickening incident and suggested that he feared the worst for Farfan.
“We were very shocked by what happened with Jefferson, because he could not move his arms and legs, he had white eyes, when I saw him I thought the worst, it scared us a lot,” the defender said.
“We have just been told that (Farfán) is already aware, that he can now move his legs and hands, thank God he is out of danger, he may travel with us, but I do not think he will play. Good.”
The attacker is joined on the sidelines by centre-back Alberto Rodriguez, who hasn’t trained since suffering an injury in the clash against Denmark.
Rampant ENG, Poles fall short
Meanwhile, the Aussies are dealing with selection issues of their own.
Socceroos striker Tomi Juric has declared himself fit and ready to start should coach Bert van Marwijk opt to field the beanpole striker.
Andrew Nabbout’s shoulder injury opens the door for either Juric, sidelined legend Tim Cahill or in-form poacher Jamie Maclaren to start in Sochi.
“I feel good and have been training well. I’m quite confident in my abilities and that I’m fit enough to play,” Juric said on Sunday.