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Neymar the victim of a media campaign – Rafinha

Barcelona star Neymar has been marked by the media as the villain behind the controversy at Valencia, according to team-mate Rafinha.

The Brazil international was struck by a bottle thrown from the crowd as he celebrated Lionel Messi’s late winner with a group of players at the Mestalla last Saturday.

Valencia were fined €1,500 over the incident, but Barca were incensed by comments from the Competition Committee, who suggested the Catalans had provoked the crowd.

Barca announced on Thursday that they will pursue proceedings against LaLiga president Javier Tebas after he criticised the conduct of some of their players, while Valencia captain Dani Parejo also risked the ire of the champions when he told LaSexta that Neymar had been “wrong to taunt the crowd”.

Given that Neymar has been accused in the past of deliberately antagonising opponents with elaborate tricks on the ball, Rafinha believes that there is a concerted attempt in some quarters to make his compatriot a scapegoat.

“They’ve distorted the story, a bottle hit Neymar and they’ve changed the story around it,” he told Mundo Deportivo. “It’s an incident of violence from one person at Mestalla and now they blame Neymar. For me, it really is a surprise.

“I believe that, yes, he’s a victim of a campaign, they are looking for this kind of thing to create something that isn’t there.

“But that’s football. Neymar’s quality is above the norm and he shows that on the pitch. For me, it’s not provocation, it’s art.

“I wish everybody was able to do that, but everyone has their own way of playing.”

Rafinha says that he “totally agrees” with Tebas’ message that protecting players and fans from violence must be paramount, but he is fully behind Barca’s decision to take action over what they described as “totally reprehensible and excessive” remarks over their role in the Mestalla incident.

“Yes, it’s important that the club protects its players. I’m surprised that the president of the league does not do the same,” he said.

“We’ve talked about it but we haven’t given it too much importance in the dressing room. We’re already thinking about the match against Granada.”

Fri 28 Oct, 2016
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