Neymar is one of the most valuable sportsmen on the planet and when it comes to money in football, his value even surpasses his contemporaries Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
The Brazilian star became the most expensive footballer in history last August with a staggering $263m move to Paris-Saint Germain (PSG) from Barcelona.
It was a different experience to cover the former Barcelona striker when he accompanied PSG for a short ‘Qatar Winter Tour’ in Doha last week.
Instructions from the officials — “No attempt for selfies, no flash photography, no controversial questions” — weren’t heard of. It was a rare occasion when you see a fan in a journalist in his declining years.
As Neymar walked inside the hall for a press conference, some intrepid reporters — despite the restriction — attempted to take selfies but their efforts went in vain as Neymar’s security team ensured not even a long-shot selfie was captured.
The Brazilian, speaking in Portuguese with a translator on his side, spoke about his ambitions of giving PSG their maiden Champions League title and winning the World Cup for Brazil in Russia in 2018. “Brazil will be one of the favourites to win the World Cup in Russia,” he declared as he responded to one of the few queries allowed for the session.
Speaking about Brazil’s World Cup group which includes Switzerland, Costa Rica and Serbia, Neymar said it will be a huge challenge for all the competing teams. “All teams will be tough as they will come for the World Cup very well prepared. It’s going to be a difficult task right from the start.”
There was a specific instruction against any query regarding his speculated move to Real Madrid — one of the hottest topics of winter break.
Neymar, though, spoke about PSG’s clash against Real Madrid in the last-16 stage of Champions League with the first leg scheduled on February 14. “It will be a fierce battle. Real Madrid is a very strong side with outstanding players. At the same time, PSG is also a very well balanced team. We are in good form and will go into the match with full confidence,” the 25-year-old said.
While setting sights on titles for PSG, the feared striker rejected the notion that he was struggling to adjust in Paris. “I have been warmly welcomed in Paris by everyone and I am more than happy with what I have achieved so far for the club. The fans and supporters of my team have always backed me,” he added.
Last year, Neymar was a part of Catalans when they made PSG fans cry after a historic turnaround by overcoming a 0-4 deficit in the first leg.
Refusing to talk about the PSG heartbreak last edition, the striker said one of his main aims was to make a sweep of titles for the Parisians in the ongoing season.
“I am targeting to win all titles for PSG. Of course Champions League is on top of the list. I want to win Champions League (for PSG) and World Cup (for Brazil) in 2018. The Champions League title will give me a great deal of confidence ahead of the World Cup,” he said.
With a lot being said about Qatar as hosts for the 2022 World Cup, Neymar backed the Gulf state to deliver a “perfect” event. “I have full confidence in Qatar as the hosts of the World Cup in 2022,” said Neymar. “I am sure Qatar will host a perfect and wonderful World Cup.
“I’ve been visiting Qatar since 2006-2007 and every time I come here I see improvement and a major uplift in infrastructure. Some of the facilities I saw like at Aspire (Academy) could be the envy of any other country. I hope that other countries, too, develop such facilities for the benefit of young sportsmen,” he said.
More futile efforts by reporters and others around were witnessed as Neymar — escorted by his security team — walked away after the session.