Neymar: Messi and I Dream of the Final
Though just 22, Neymar is carrying the expectations of an entire nation on his shoulders, with many experts tipping him to lead Brazil to success at this year’s FIFA World Cup™ on home soil. In Zurich where he was attending the FIFA Ballon d’Or as a nominee for the FIFA Puskás Award, the former Santos starlet made time for an exclusive chat with FIFA.com. Among other topics, Neymar spoke about life with new club Barcelona, his relationship with Lionel Messi and the strengths of the Brazilian national team. “I will be a World Cup winner,” he told us.
You’ve been at Barça a little over six months now. Would you say you’re a different player to the one who left Santos?
No, I’m still the same, though obviously more experienced having been in new surroundings, in another city and a new country. You learn new things, a new culture, and that’s very good.
What do you miss about Brazil?
I miss my home there and always miss my family and friends. But as I said, I’m very happy to be discovering new things. Right now I’m living my boyhood dream, which was to play for a European club. The fact that it’s a huge club like Barcelona makes it a tremendous honour. I like everything about the city: the climate, the people. It’s quite similar to Brazil, which helps a lot. There’s even a beach!
How has A Seleção changed since Luiz Felipe Scolari’s arrival?
I don’t know that it has changed. I think the team created its own identity. We needed time to train and get to know each other better, time for our game to flow. We had that at the Confederations Cup and everything worked out well. The way the group bonded, both on and off the pitch, was fantastic, and that just motivated us even more to run and work for each other. It helped us win that title.
What would say are Felipão’s main strengths as a coach?
As a coach he’s a normal, unassuming guy, just like one of us. He can crack a joke but he can be tough when he has to be. He’s a hard-working man who always likes to win, and a great person. Those are his main virtues and the reason he’s won over the squad.
What does it mean to be able to play your first World Cup on home soil?
It’s a unique opportunity – we know that only too well. We’re delighted about it and happy that other people will be able to come here and discover our culture and country. I know Brazil will welcome everyone.
Did you watch the Final Draw?
Yes, I saw it while on club duty with Barcelona. We’ve been given a tough group with some great teams, but we hope to have the best possible tournament. Who do I see as our main rivals? Well, nowadays there’s very little to choose between teams, so you need to take care no matter who you play. All the competing teams are strong so you need to prepare for that to avoid any surprises.
You’ve always spoken in glowing terms about Lionel Messi, but come the World Cup, he’ll be a direct rival chasing the same goal.
(Laughs) Indeed, I’ve even spoken to him about a possible Final between Brazil and Argentina, obviously with Brazil winning. I was always a big fan of his, and am even more so now that I know him. I have the good fortune to work with him every day and I wish him well in everything.
Your country’s fans have placed great store in you for the World Cup. What would you like to say to them ahead of big event?
To rest assured they can count on 23 warriors who will be fighting for the national team in our bid to realise everyone’s dream, not just that of the players. Hopefully they’ll drive us on till the end, and we’ll be giving our all for them too.
Lastly, we’d like you to finish this sentence for us? “In 2014, Neymar will be…”
(Thinks for a bit, then laughs) …a World Cup winner!