Neymar has risked the wrath of team-mate Lionel Messi by taking a swipe at his appearance for the new season.
Messi has sported bleached-blonde hair and an impressive beard since returning for club duty from an extended holiday following his Copa America exploits with Argentina.
The new ‘do – first revealed via an Instagram post from girlfriend Antonella Roccuzzo – has set something of a trend across European football, with Neymar and Rafinha both opting for the same dyed look after their Olympic Games triumph, while Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey and now Liverpool’s Alberto Moreno have followed suit.
Neymar has now upped the stakes in the trichological turf war, though, by suggesting that Messi does not carry the style too well.
“The first time that I wanted to grow a beard, I only had little tufts. If I could choose, I wouldn’t have a beard,” the Brazilian said at an event organised by Barca and a well-known shaving product brand.
“Messi looks good enough blonde, with his beard, but I think there’s some room for improvement!” he added, laughing.
Neymar and Messi were in sparkling form for Barca on Tuesday, with the former scoring once and assisting a further four goals while his team-mate hit a hat-trick and set up another strike in the 7-0 dismantling of Celtic.
The 24-year-old, who led Brazil to their first Olympic football title last month after winning the domestic double with Barca last season, says he now hopes to seal a nomination for the final three for the Ballon d’Or prize for the second year in a row – though he says the world’s best player is beyond discussion.
“I hope to be among the final nominees,” he said. “The favourite is difficult to decide. For me, Messi is the best. Cristiano Ronaldo won titles and that sometimes just edges it.
“Sometimes, the Ballon d’Or isn’t won by the best. If it were, Messi would always win it.
“He’s the best I have seen play. It’s easy to play alongside someone like that. He’s a good mate, just like [Luis] Suarez. We always support and help one another.
“When you have the best player in the world, the team is good and we have the best team. I’m sure it will be a great season for us and that we will get many more trophies.”
Barca’s success over the last two seasons has been inspired by the attacking trident of Messi, Neymar and Suarez, who scored twice in the victory over Celtic at Camp Nou.
The trio scored a staggering total of 131 goals in all competitions last term, but Neymar believes they should aim to surpass those figures in 2016-17.
“The secret is of the trident is to improve day after day,” he said. “I like this phrase. Yesterday was a great day, but tomorrow should be even better – this is life. This is what we’re aiming for as a team.
“I don’t know how many goals we can get. I hope we can go beyond 130.”