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Neymar must not focus on replacing Messi – Juninho

Neymar should not put pressure on himself to fill the void left at Barcelona by Lionel Messi’s injury, according to former Brazil international Juninho Pernambucano.

The Argentine was ruled out for two months with a knee injury in September, missing the Champions League win over Bayer Leverkusen and the Liga defeat to Sevilla on Saturday.

But the former Lyon midfielder does not believe it should be solely down to Neymar to minimise the impact of Messi’s absence at Camp Nou.

“Neymar’s thoughts should not be: ‘I am going to replace Messi, I’m going to get the ball, score all the goals and make everything happen’,” Juninho told Globo.

“It cannot be like this, but he has to take the initiative and know that Messi is not on the field and he maybe has to take the lead.

“With the Argentine absent, he may have to do this.”

While Juninho accepts that Neymar is comfortable with the responsibility required to lead a big team through his experience as captain of Brazil, he believes that the situation at club level is different.

“Even with the increased pressure it is not something that Neymar is not used to,” he added.

“At Santos he was always the centre of attention, and with the Brazilian national team.

“What will be harder, to lead the five-time world champions or the Spanish and European champions?

“I think that in Barcelona it is more difficult. In Brazil, he knows that he is already the leader of the team by what he does on the pitch and due to the absence of other players of his level.

“Therefore, I think that with Brazil it is easier and our need today causes us to have more patience with him.

“Nothing is easy – neither in the Selecao nor at Barcelona. The Brazilian national team is the best known in the world and Barcelona is the best club in the world.

“And when they lose their best player it is also difficult.”

Neymar will miss Brazil’s first two World Cup 2018 qualifying fixtures against Chile and Venezuela as he serves the remaining two games of a suspension carried over from this year’s Copa America.

Mon 5 Oct, 2015
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